Wed, Feb. 19

Whatever Happened To... Rip Vaughn
Camp Verde phenom Rip Vaughn was the most dominant high school golfer in Arizona history

Ripley Vaughn today (lower right image) is a senior account executive who may take a stab at the Senior Tour. In high school, Rip Vaughn won four straight high school championships, something no one else in Arizona has done.

Ripley Vaughn today (lower right image) is a senior account executive who may take a stab at the Senior Tour. In high school, Rip Vaughn won four straight high school championships, something no one else in Arizona has done.

He shot an 82 the first day. Not bad for a high school freshman in the pressure of a state golf tournament. Good enough to help his team but not enough to have hopes of winning.

A ringing 71 the second day, however, propelled him past the field at the Village of Oak Creek's golf course and into a tie for first place. After the afternoon playoff, Ripley Vaughn was the ABC state medalist and Camp Verde High School had thumped Willcox by 25 strokes to take the 1974 team title.

Today from his home in California, Vaughn still says that was the toughest of his state competitions.

Thirty years after his high school career, Rip Vaughn remains an anomaly in the athletic books, Arizona's only four-year golf medalist. He is one of only a handful of golfers in the United States to win an individual state title in the sport all four years of high school.

In the 1970s, when Camp Verde High School was still on Main Street, Vaughn played basketball and a little football but knew his natural talent lay in golf.

Just call him the Ripper

He started swinging a golf club at age 6. His father Lee taught him everything he knew. Lee Vaughn, now living near Seligman, still has a detailed memory of his son's golf exploits. Ripley was 9 when the Vaughn family moved from California to Lake Montezuma to be near his grandparents. There, his grandfather had a big influence as well.

So did having the Beaver Creek golf course close at hand, he said.

Vaughn attended elementary grades at Beaver Creek School. Before he reached high school, the Cowboys already had one state golf title to their name (beating Mingus Union in 1972).

Camp Verde regained that title in '74 with Vaughn leading a team of three seniors and two freshmen. The team repeated the feat in '75, defeating Lake Havasu as Ripley shot a 144 over the two-day ABC tournament in the VOC.

It all came under the leadership of coach LeRoy Carr. A long-time educator, Carr had been teaching since 1953. His three kids practically grew up at the golf course and were on teams that he coached. Ron Carr, in fact, played on the '72 and '74 state championship teams. Coach Carr retired in '81.

"I thought the world of coach Carr," Vaughn says. "He was great. He drove us everywhere, from Payson to Winslow."

In those years, an individual medal was sweet, but Vaughn says, "My goal was for us as a team."

Vaughn's junior year, Camp Verde was moved to the 1A/2A classification. The team easily beat Benson (625-666) at Tempe Municipal Golf Course, and Vaughn shot a 147 for the individual crown.

His senior year, however, Bradshaw Mountain got the best of the Cowboys (666-672). But they could not stop Vaughn, who shot 73-73--146 for a still-unmatched fourth Arizona state medal.

With that kind of record, visions of a pro career like his idol Jack Nicklaus were natural. So where is he now? As is often the hitch in many a sports tale, injury came into play.

Vaughn landed a scholarship to New Mexico State University, where he played for two years. Then he left the team to play in the National Golf Association's mini-tours.

"Dad accepted it," Ripley says. "The goal was to get to the (PGA) Tour. I don't think he cared too much."

It was on a mini-tour that he got hurt in Texas. He stumbled into a prairie dog hole, injured his back, and that was it.

He stayed around the game for a while doing assistant pro work, but his control was gone for the high level of play.

From that point, Vaughn moved to California and found work in the hotel industry as a staff accountant at the Hyatt Regency in San Diego. He later moved on to the Ritz Carlton.

In 2007, Ripley Vaughn started his own company in Laguna Niguel, Calif., as a consultant in the hotel management industry. He is so happy living on the coast, he has not been able to leave long enough to ever visit Camp Verde again.

He and Andrea, his wife of 19 years, have three daughters ("and none of them plays golf," Ripley laments). Rheanna (15), Noelle (14) and Alaina (12) are all athletic in different ways. In fact, Rheanna is a nationally ranked swimmer.

Ripley himself still seeks the action, too. "I can still shoot in the mid-70s," he says. "I'm seriously thinking about making an attempt at the Senior Tour in a few years. I still have that competitive fire!"

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