RICK CLEVELAND: MSU’s McDonald finds success, stays hungry

Mississippi State’s Ally McDonald, from Fulton, has been a breakout golf performer in 2013. (Mississippi State)

Mississippi State’s Ally McDonald, from Fulton, has been a breakout golf performer in 2013. (Mississippi State)

By Rick Cleveland

JACKSON – Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Lou Weddington Hart has won the state’s women’s amateur golf championship nine times. Her daddy, Hunter George Weddington, the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame, won the men’s amateur championship three times.

So Lou Hart is well-versed on Mississippi golf history. That’s what makes this first statement from Lou so powerfully telling, “Ally McDonald can be as good as there is or has ever been. She can be Mississippi’s next Mary Mills.”

Wow! Mary Mills won three of women’s golf’s majors: one U.S. Open and two LPGA Championships. In college, she played No. 1 on Millsaps men’s team.

McDonald, a rising junior at Mississippi State from Fulton, added another huge line on her ever-growing list of achievements last weekend, capturing the prestigious North & South Amateur championship at the famed Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort.

McDonald defeated Cindy Feng, 3 and 2, in Saturday’s championship match at Pinehurst No. 2, widely recognized as one of the best tests of golf in the world.

As a State sophomore, McDonald won the NCAA Central Regional Tournament and then had a top 10 finish in the NCAA Championships to cap an first-team All American season. She is improving rapidly, earning nine top 10 finishes as a sophomore, compared to four as a freshman, and bringing her scoring average down a full two strokes to 72.3.

“I’ve been watching her since she was 12 years old,” Lou Hart said. “She hits a long ball, a really high ball, and her short game is just terrific. Best of all, she really, really works at it.”

Ally’s daddy cut off a golf club for her when she was three years old. She began accompanying him to the golf course, a nine-hole course in Fulton, when she was four. She won the state junior at 13. She won the State Am at Dancing Rabbit as a high schooler.

And this would make Mary Mills proud: As a high school senior, Ally won the State 4A high school golf championship. For guys.
aiming high

Her goals are lofty. She wants to win a national championship at State. Then, she wants to turn pro “and hopefully become as successful as Mary Mills was. I want to win majors. I want to become one of the best golfers on the LPGA Tour. I want to keep working, keep improving.”

Her next big challenge? She has qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur that will be played at Country Club of Charleston (S.C.) beginning on Aug. 5.

You would have thought she might have been taking it easy last Monday after the weekend’s big victory, but this will tell you something about Ally McDonald. She spent Monday working with 14-year-old Fulton junior golfer Carlee Nanney, as the latter played a practice round at Old Waverly in West Point, preparing for an upcoming tournament.

Said Hart, “Ally’s got her head on straight. She’s got a great family. She’s not only an outstanding golfer but a really, really good person.”

<b>Rick Cleveland</b> (rcleveland@ msfame.com) is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His column usually appears in the Daily Journal on Wednesdays.