team jumping by Matt Marriott and Jeff Camarati

Rhodes Lady Golf Team (Jessica Ritter is far right). Photo by Matt Marriott and Jeff Camarati, NCAA Images.

Jessica Ritter, Lake Highlands grad in 2011, has earned a Division III national championship as part of the women’s golf team at Rhodes College in Memphis. It is the team’s first national title ever and the school’s first team championship since 1961.

“The win was amazing,” Jessica told me. “It was such a fun week, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

“The biggest challenge was playing five 18-hole rounds in the heat over the course of five days,” said Jessica. “We also had several weather delays, which made the days drag on and minimized our sleep time. We lead each day of the tournament, which was exciting but also added some pressure. We didn’t want to blow our lead.

“Our team is very close. We’re more like a family than a team.”

Jim Kratz, Jessica’s coach on the Lady Wildcat golf team, is beaming with pride at her accomplishments.

“I can’t say enough about this young lady,” he told me. “Jessica is motivated, hard-working and interested in others. I’m proud that she has accomplished what she has with her team at Rhodes, and she has offered to come talk to the LH team and share her experiences.”

Jessica, a political science and religious studies double major, be working in Memphis for investment banker Duncan-Williams this summer, but hopes to visit friends and family is Dallas.

“My dad [Paul] has been my biggest motivation and supporter as I’ve developed an interest in golf, and he’s taught me lots about the game and life in general. My family has been so supportive and I’m so thankful God blessed me enough to be born in Lake Highlands. I’m still a huge fan of the LH golf program and love all that Coach Kratz has been able to do over the years.”

Rhodes took a commanding lead early in the tournament, and they never lost it. Defending national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor came in second 24 strokes behind Rhodes total score of 1,256. You can see some great photos  of the day here.

And, when Jessica returns to LH?

“Mi Cocina and the Royal Oaks pool will be my first two stops,” said Jessica, who parted with triplet siblings Allison and Annie when it was time to leave for college. “Both of my sisters are life-guarding at ROCC for the 8th time this summer.”

Jessica with parents Paul and Julie Ritter

Jessica with parents Paul and Julie Ritter