Bound for Rapid City to study chemical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Rianna Garland settled on “a school that is more focused on education, and I get to play golf alongside that,” she said. “There were very few choices for chemical engineering and golf, let me tell you.”
After a comprehensive search for the ideal balance, she concluded “South Dakota was one of the main ones.”
She wasn’t the only person pleased with the decision.
“We are excited to have Rianna join the Hardrocker family,” said Golf Coach Luke Wheeler. “She is one of the top players in Arizona and she will compete for a top spot as a freshman for the Hardrockers.”
Rianna picked up the game when her dad “picked up his clubs again.”
“I wanted to come along, so I’m like: ‘hey, this is kinda fun.’ So we looked-up a coach, and here I am now. And I still have the same coach. That’s pretty cool too,” she said.
“Mostly playing for fun back then,” Rianna began competing in Antigua Tour events before moving up to high school tournaments and lamented that she “kinda wished they had it for junior high.”
Rianna “liked the team aspect,” as a member of the Mesa’s Desert Ridge High School Girls Golf Team. And in addition to socializing, she managed to post solid results three years in a row at the state championships: 2019-2020, T18 (+8); 2018-2019, 27 (+25); and 2017-2018, T40 (+29).
She joined the JGAA in 2017 at 15 years old, played in three events, before taking it up a notch in 2018. That year she put up her first win at the Show Low Classic to go along with seven other top-10s in nine events. In 2019 she snatched another victory in the Girls 15-18 division and made 10 top-10s in 12 tournaments. Rianna closed out her JGAA career with a flurry of top-10s: 2nd at the New Year Classic and T4, 3, 4, 4, T9 in the balance of her 2020 tournaments.
Rianna credited “more challenging courses, longer distances,” and help building her “endurance over two days” in JGAA events.
“It gave me an extra challenge, more competition, and to see how other players are, and meet other golfers, have fun through the other golfers,” Rianna said. “It was very positive to play with other people.”
The JGAA is proud to have played a humble role in Rianna’s discovery of the best combination golf and education to meet her interests and goals. It’s a balance every student athlete must strike for themselves, and in Rianna’s case, she chose the “Hardrocker” path. How cool is that?!