MARION — Maura Murphy makes it look easy: Straight A's, champion golfer, No. 1 singles tennis player.
Adding to the rigor is that all of it is happening simultaneously, so it's far, far, far from easy or simple.
"It’s long and takes a lot of work," the Pleasant senior admitted last week. "Despite putting in the effort in both sports, you’ve got four- or five-day weeks between the two on top of practices. For example, we rescheduled a match for tennis against Harding on a Saturday, that added one more thing and it taps into the weekends On top of school, you have to come home and do your school work. It’s a lot."
But she'd have it no other way.
Murphy has grown up playing golf and tennis at a high level. The problem is that in Ohio high school sports those two are both happening in the fall. Also, to beat the cold weather, the schedules are front-loaded with lots of meets and matches in August and September.
It's a sprint inside a personal marathon.
"I have to applaud my athletic director (Mike Lindsey) and Coach (Kirsten) Jordan and Coach (Jeff) Davis for their stellar planning. Last year and this year, it’s been golf (as a priority). If there’s a conflict and it’s not a conference tennis match, I’m playing golf. (Last) Wednesday we have a match against Kenton for tennis and we have our MOAC conference, so golf it is," she said.
Juggling golf and tennis
Murphy's had lots of practice with her juggling act. She's played both sports at the varsity level since her freshman season. And since her sophomore year, she's been the school's No. 1 tennis player at singles and a top performer in girls golf.
"She’s just a phenomenal kid all around," Jordan said. "She’s a hard worker. She does what you ask her to do. She represents the school to the utmost. It’s not just athletically, but it’s academically, too."
The same goes for the golf coach.
"She’s been great," Davis said. "She works so hard at both of them. It’s been a great year for her, and I’m glad to see it in her senior year."
The beauty of coaching Murphy is her sense of responsibility. She simply makes it work without fuss.
"I don’t have to do a whole lot as far as that goes," Davis said of managing her time. "The great thing about her, too, is she’s such a great student on top of it. She’s very determined. She reminds me a lot of my daughter (Jenni). My daughter was that way in school and played all the sports and got good grades. It’s a lot of want-to."
According to Jordan, she and Davis make sure Murphy isn't caught in a bad spot between teams.
"We both promised her that we would not put her in the middle of a schedule (conflict)," Jordan said. "We’ll make it work so she doesn’t have to worry about it. It’s a lot. One schedule is bad enough, but doing two? We have four matches (last) week, so she’s going to miss on Wednesday because of MOAC (golf) but it’s a nonleague match in tennis. It’s not a big deal."
The effort is appreciated by Murphy.
"I don’t think there are any regrets because I’ve made wonderful friendships with most of my teams," she said. "My coaches have been wonderfully understanding. It’s really been this community thing for me and there were so many involved in the process. That makes it worth it."
Murphy the golfer
So far, Murphy has been perfect in the Mid Ohio Athletic Conference after a summer season of winning seven of seven tournaments in the Heart of Ohio Junior Golf Association. In the three conference tournaments to determine the league champ, the Spartans won all three as a team to run their streak of team league titles to three in a row. Likewise, Murphy went three-for-three at the MOAC meets, winning individually.
"It’s been kind of unusual because she’s struggled all year in getting her drive to go where she wants it to, Davis said. "I don’t know what the percentage of greens she hits in regulation, but it’s very unusual for her to not hit a green. The par 5s she can come close to being on in 2 most of the time. Her chipping is really good. If she’s have an off night, she’s having putts of 15 to 20 feet for birdie instead of 5 to whatever."
Because of her regular season performances, Murphy has high hopes for the end of the year for golf.
"My senior year goals were basically to get to state for golf, which is hard," she said of the one bid available in the Division II Central District tourney. "In the end, if I don’t make it, I can probably say I was a four-year district qualifier. That’s still worth something."
Murphy the tennis player
As a freshman, Murphy played second or third singles, but as a sophomore has been the player holding the No. 1 spot on the team.
"She’s very fundamentally sound, and she doesn’t get rattled," Jordan said. "She kind of figures out what she needs to do to beat her opponent from match to match. She just grinds it out, and usually, she’s successful. This year she’s been extremely successful with what she’s done. She works hard on it. She works all summer with the rest of the girls, and I know she does lessons on her own."
Murphy and her senior teammates Katie Jordan, Hannah Miller, Lauren West and Anna Wenig are bringing a Pleasant renaissance to the tennis courts. They are sitting in second place in the MOAC behind Shelby with a match against the Whippets for the league title coming tonight in Shelby.
"It’s kind of sad that both of them are coming to an end, but I’m also trying to go out with accomplishments," she said. "I’ve had the best tennis season of my high school career this year, which is pretty exciting, and in golf I’m shooting the scores I’ve wanted to all summer. It’s exciting, but bittersweet."
Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month winner
With the 4.0 grade point average, all the matches won on the tennis court and all the records and medals earned in golf, Murphy added something else to her resume. For the first time, she became a Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month recipient, winning it for August among Marion County girls after going 8-0 in tennis matches and winning four golf tournaments while achieving record-setting scores.
"I think it was a goal of mine this year. I won athlete of the month last year in school, and I experienced that. I knew the Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month was out there, so that was on the docket for senior year," Murphy said.
It's been a lot of time-consuming work and scheduling to pull it off, but she has no regrets with how it's played out over four years.
"I’ve benefitted by putting myself through challenges," she said "Being able to do all this proves I can go on and tackle things."
And she can make it look easy while doing it even when it's far from easy.
X, formerly Twitter @McMotorsport
Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month
August Girls Nominees:
Winner: Maura Murphy, senior, Pleasant golf and tennis.
Ava Stover, junior, River Valley tennis.
Leah Price, sophomore, Marion Harding cross country.
Hannah Staton, sophomore, Ridgedale cross country.
Jordan Wall, sophomore, Elgin volleyball.
This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month Award: Maura Murphy makes it look easy