A small group of in-state college golf coaches, most notably from NAU and ASU, showed up at a U.S. national qualifying tournament last summer to do some scouting.
It didn't take long to spot a possible prized recruit. It was a girl from Tucson they'd never heard of. Her name was Morgan Messick.
Word trickled down that Messick was being mentored by Arizona's top junior swing coach, Kene Bensel, so the coaches approached Bensel immediately.
"They were asking about me," Messick said. "Kene was like, 'Guys, take it easy. She's only in eighth grade.'"
It wasn't the first time Messick, now a 14-year-old freshman at Canyon del Oro, shocked spectators with her skills and her age. Not even close.
When Messick first picked up a golf club five years ago (at the encouragement of her grandfather), she drew the attention of the club pro at Prescott Lakes.
At 9 years old, Messick couldn't understand the fuss.
"Here I am just hitting golf balls, and they are so impressed," she recalled. "I'm like, 'What's the big deal?'"
Having always played softball, she thought to herself: "I'm not hitting it over the fence, so what's so exciting?"
These days, Messick is starting to understand the commotion. Two months ago, she won the Antigua Junior Tour Championship (held in Prescott) by 23 strokes in her 13-14 age division. She shot 3-under par for the two-day tournament, putting her 12 strokes ahead of the winner in the 15-18 division, and only one stroke off the boys winning score. She finished tied for 28th at the Junior World Championships held in San Diego in July, and recently shot a 31 during a nine-hole match at Dell Urich.
The Star asked Messick about specializing in golf, her success at a young age and her decision to play at CDO:
How did you decide to drop softball and focus solely on playing golf.
A: "Early on, people started telling me I didn't need softball anymore. I was kind of confused. I was kind of young. I was like, 'Why can't I do both?' I didn't discover until later that it's hard to do both. I started having trouble with softball; I was swinging under the ball. I knew I had to make a decision. Golf was so much fun, I figured I would try something new, and I really love it so I'm not going back."
How have you gotten so good in such a short period of time?
A: "Most of the time, I'm so focused on how I can get better, I don't really think about how far I've come. When I do think about it, I guess it is pretty fast. I've been fortunate to have lots of good instruction, and I've been working really hard, so I guess it pays off."
CDO is not known for its girls golf team, so why did you choose to become a Dorado?
A: "Starting out, I was really thinking about going to a school with an awesome golf team. But toward the end of eighth grade, I had the decision made that I was going to go to CDO. My friends, I've been with them since first grade. I just couldn't imagine separating from them.
"Honestly, it really doesn't matter where you go. It's just a few months out of the year. I don't think it's going to make a huge difference in my career. Coaches can still find me."