Maccaglia relishes Palmer Cup opportunity
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Anthony Maccaglia rushed back to his room at Oglethorpe University, virtually cut off from the world.
He can usually depend on his 8 a.m. English class to be dismissed after about a half of an hour, but not today. He left his phone shut off and in his room in anticipation of the big announcement.
He made it back a few minutes after 9 a.m., but not in time to hear Steve Desimone say the following words on the Golf Channel:
"(I'm) really proud to say this is the first Division III young man that will be a part of the United States Palmer Cup team. That would be Anthony Maccaglia from Oglethorpe."
Maccaglia did not hear the words come from his TV or see it in a congratulatory text – he grew impatient after his phone took too long to turn on – he read the good news on his computer.
"I couldn't believe it. I was really excited. I was shaking for like half an hour," Maccaglia said.
The junior from Tampa, Fla., stands out on the U.S. roster.
He did not receive the same attention out of high school as Robby Shelton – in fact, he was overlooked by many as a senior until Oglethorpe head coach Jim Owen recruited him to play in Atlanta. He may not be able to hit the ball 300 yards off the tee like Brandon Hagy – the California Golden Bear might be able to outdrive Maccaglia with a few clubs. And he may not be as well known among the Atlanta golfing community as Ollie Schniederjans – Oglethorpe does not have a home course in the tradition-rich city.
But, at the end of the day, Maccaglia will represent the United States June 26-28 at the historic Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England, just like the rest of his teammates.
The top six players in the Palmer Cup Rankings received automatic invites, three golfers received invites from a selection committee and one individual was selected by Desimone. It was required that one of the three committee selections was a non-Division I golfer. That's where Maccaglia benefited.
But Desimone could be getting much more than just a good story. Maccaglia plans on making an impact the best way he knows how – with his short game.
"He's the best putter in the country in Division III," Owen said. "I always take it a little further and say he can putt with them at any level. He's better than anybody from within 10 feet. That separates him and is why he's going to be able to take his game a long way."
Maccaglia's credentials are strong in the realm of Division III, but he has played at a high level in amateur tournaments as well. He is a two-time Division III All-American, the 2012 Division III Player of the Year and Individual National Champion. His two best showings in amateur golf came at the Dogwood Invitational and Southwestern Amateur last summer, where he finished 15th and fourth, respectively.
"What separated him, in my opinion, was that the committee saw he finished 15th in the Dogwood, which is remarkable," Owen said. "You combine that with his already top-level Division III play and you bring that over and see how he does when he goes against the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets, and his body of work exceeds what a lot of them have done."
Maccaglia has learned to rely on his short game as a junior because he did not hit the ball as long as his competitors. He can drive the ball 260 yards consistently, which would likely rank him near the bottom of the pack on the U.S. team, but his statistics can be compared with nearly anyone – he has hit 70 percent of fairways this year and is averaging 29.5 putts per round.
"He's actually Clark Kent when you see him. He's got the glasses on and is 5-foot-nothing, or, better yet, 5-9. He's unassuming and looks like a kid headed for class," Owen said. "When you see his score at the end of the day – it doesn't matter where we play or how hard the course is, he's up for the challenge. "
Said Maccaglia: "I'm excited to play with (the U.S. team), test my game with them and against the European team. I don't want to go over there and lay an egg. I want to represent Oglethorpe well, the United States well and hopefully get a few points for my team."
By making the Palmer Cup team, Maccaglia has cemented his place in Oglethorpe and Division III history. But Owen thinks there's still room to grow.
Maccaglia is the third Oglethorpe Stormy Petrel to be named the National Player of the Year. Olafur Loftsson did it in 2009, and Trent Erb did it in 2003.
"What he's done in 2 1/2 years eclipsed what they've done combined," Owen said of the eight-time winner. "Because of his putter, we'd say that he's the greatest player in Oglethorpe history and he's only been with us for 2 1/2 years."
Owen went a step further in praising the junior. He compared Maccaglia to Chad Collins, a PGA Tour player who won three national championships at Methodist University.
"We always thought Chad would be the greatest Division III player in history forever," Owen said. "And we're going to have to make a new statement that Anthony can be mentioned confidently with Chad as one of the great Division III players in history."
Doubters may say that a Division II player should have received the nod.
"I guess that's the mentality, that Division III players don't have any game," Maccaglia said. "But that's what I want to do ... to prove that us D-III guys can hang with the D-I guys."