By Dustin Turner • Photo by Chris Thelen

 Growing up, Mary Hunt Murray was pressed to find girls who played golf, a factor that motivated her to succeed in the sport she now loves, including playing college golf and hopefully going pro. “There weren’t many girl golfers growing up, and I’m still the only girl at my club,” Murray said. “I was shy and just didn’t want to talk to the guys. I would have gotten into golf earlier if there had been other girls who played.”

Now a senior at Augusta Prep, Murray started playing golf in middle school, but didn’t really enjoy it and push herself to succeed until high school. “In high school, I realized I wanted to play in college. Deciding in high school is pretty late because a lot of people would get early signed even in eighth grade. I started playing well in the past year, and that’s when AU reached out to me,” said Murray, who recently signed to play golf for Augusta University starting as a freshman next fall at the university.

Murray has always been an athlete, playing everything from tennis and track to powderpuff football. The main reason she started playing golf, though, was because her father paid her to take some lessons. “My dad’s a big golfer. When I was in fifth grade, he paid for me to take lessons with my best friend. I hated it so much at the time because I was really into a lot of other sports and I just didn’t have the patience for it,” Murray said, laughing.

Traveling to tournaments, meeting people and seeing her game improve made golf more fun and turned the sport into a major life passion and goal. Currently, she plays for the Augusta Prep golf team and works with West Lake’s golf clinic to help teach girls once a month. “It’s important to me that more girls play golf, and I hope to help these girls make the kinds of friends I have in the sport,” Murray said. “I’ve made great, lifelong friends through golfing.”

In addition to making friends and enjoying travel, the game has taught Murray some valuable life lessons. “If you travel a lot like I do, you learn to be independent. I schedule a lot of my own tournaments as well as the details involving the tournaments,” she said. “You learn such good manners. Golf is a game of etiquette and patience.”

Murray was already enjoying the game when she started playing in high school, even though it was a bumpy start. “During my freshman year, the team was almost all seniors and some of them already had colleges commitments. I was not good. I hardly ever played in tournaments,” said Murray. A bus crash during her sophomore year, however, really solidified her decision to commit to the sport. The crash near Macon, Ga., ended the season and critically injured her then coach, Chuck Mason. “I had a lot of soft tissue damage in my hips and back, and it was a challenge to get back all the mobility I needed to return to the game,” Murray said. “Our golf coach wasn’t OK, though, and that made me want to fight to play even more. I’ve never seen a coach love golf so much. That’s what got me really committed. Being in a wreck where we could have lost our lives made me appreciate everything and realize what’s important.”

Murray is on track to finish her high school academic career as class valedictorian. Keeping up with grades and golf requires a lot of practice. It’s a good thing Murray has always been hard-working and driven.  “I wake up at 4:30 or 5 am each morning, do schoolwork, go to school, then golf until dark,” Murray said. “I try to take one day off each week. I’m out there on the course at least an hour a day and eight to nine hours per day on weekends.”

With college right around the corner, Murray thinks she has a good plan in place. She is considering a major in molecular biology with an eye toward going to medical school— if she doesn’t go pro, that is. She says her long game is at a professional level, but she still needs to improve. “If I get to the professional level, I’d love to take that opportunity. I’m hoping AU can mold me toward that goal since they have been able to produce a lot of pros. And there just aren’t that many American women in the LPGA. I’d love to show that it can be done,” Murray said.

Being an avid golfer in Augusta is very special to Murray, and Masters Week is her favorite time of the year. She worked at the tournament last year and met many of her favorite golfers. Yet, Murray understands the recent decision to postpone the tournament and thinks it was a responsible choice. “People from all over the world come here, and someone is bound to have Coronavirus, so it could be a problem for the golfers, fans and residents of Augusta,” she said. “Everybody wants to go to the Masters, and it just wouldn’t be fun to do it with limited patrons, like they originally said. I’m glad they are postponing it.”

The obvious question for an avid golfer: Who is your favorite golfer? Murray hesitates.

“Well, I just want to be like different parts of a lot of different players. I want to win and for people to know my name. I hope that will help more young girls go into golf.”

This article appears in the May/June 2020 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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