Whether it’s starting a new sport at age 15, balancing life as a student-athlete or battling back from injury, SMU golfer Katie James, BBA ’22, never walks away from a challenge. This year, the junior management major is eager to grow her own game while contributing to a team with an unmatched “love for golf and grit.” We spoke about the season and the semester with James, who is thankful for the support SMU Cox provides her on her path to success — whether on the green or in the classroom.

golf student-athlete Katie James
Photography by Guy Rogers III

Cox: Tell us about where you grew up.
Katie James: I have lived in Pittsburgh since middle school. Although I would consider myself a transplant, I feel a great sense of pride coming from a city so gritty and rich in tradition. I have been really fortunate that golf has allowed me to explore other places as well, including Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Florida.

Cox: Before you picked up golf at age 15, you were a talented tennis player. What motivated you to switch sports?
I switched sports due to an injury that prevented me from playing tennis. My dad introduced me to golf. After my initial refusal to play a game I envisioned as only for old people, I was immediately hooked. To me, golf is unique because of its complexities.

Cox: What are you most proud of accomplishing in your golf career so far?
KJ: After a knee surgery in January 2019, I had a long and challenging road to recovery. By that summer, I had finally started playing golf again but still wasn’t at 100%. My first tournament back was the Western Pennsylvania Amateur, coincidentally hosted at my home club: Fox Chapel Golf Club. Ultimately, I won the tournament. My pride did not stem directly from the golf I played but rather from the ability to return from a discouraging six months and show up for my community and make them proud.

student-athlete Katie James
Photography by Guy Rogers III

Cox: What drew you to SMU Cox?
KJ: In early conversations with my coach, she told me that SMU would set me up for whatever path I chose post-college. SMU is the place where both of my paths are supported in full, without compromise. Whether in professional golf or the business world, SMU offers the support and resources I need to be successful. I wanted to be a part of SMU Cox because of the professors, Cox network and opportunities.

Cox: What has been your favorite moment at Cox so far?
KJ: Early in my SMU career, I attended the BBA Scholars’ reception. The camaraderie and connectedness of the Cox community were immediately apparent. For me, that event created such great enthusiasm for the community I was joining — bright, diverse and passionate. Another one of my favorite things about Cox is the emphasis not just on our résumé skills but also on less quantifiable virtues like connection, professionalism and integrity.

Cox: As a student-athlete, you’ve maintained a 3.8 academic average. How do you balance academics and athletics?
KJ: My parents and high school education have played major roles in my ability to create balance as a student-athlete. I came from a challenging and engaging high school, which prepared me to continually approach my Cox education with passion and curiosity. My parents have also instilled in me the idea that, by leaving any of our gifts on the table, we are doing ourselves a disservice.

golf student-athlete Katie James
Photography by Guy Rogers III

Cox: What are you hoping to achieve this season personally and as a team?
Personally, I am hoping to continue to build my skill set and contribute to our success as a team. This year as a team, we had an influx of great new talent. We are looking to leverage our talent, passion, love for golf and grit to learn and improve daily.

Cox: What are your goals for the future?
KJ: One of my goals for the future is to play professional golf. But my injury history has given me this perspective: The fragility of our health means our core responsibility is to make the best of the day we have at hand. This has made me particularly grateful to be a part of Cox. SMU’s support of both my academic and athletic dreams gives me the freedom to do the best I can with each given day, and knowing that will give me the skills and readiness to tackle anything.