AUGUSTA, Ga. – Mike McCoy’s first Masters putt was a 40-footer. It ended up 25 feet short of the hole. He three-putted for a bogey.
“Not too cool,” said McCoy, a 51-year-old amateur and the second-oldest rookie in the 78-year history of the Masters (the oldest was 54-year-old Randy Lewis in 2011).
Lewis and McCoy won the U.S. Mid-Amateur to earn their spots in the Masters. However, the reigning Mid-Amateur champion has never made the cut at the Masters – not once since the automatic Mid-Am invitation was unveiled in 1988.
After a 6-over 78 in the opening round, McCoy knows Augusta National Golf Club has bogeymen galore.
But that’s what experience is for. McCoy played in 38 U.S. Golf Association championships before winning one. He is a five-time Iowa Amateur champion, a six-time Iowa Mid-Amateur winner and a 10-time Iowa Player of the Year.
He says he will play more aggressively in the second round. He has not surrendered his dream of making the cut.
McCoy’s opening round spectator gallery included two former USGA champions (John Harris and Buddy Marucci) along with dozens of old friends. “They came from all over the country,” McCoy said. “I am very lucky to have such loyal friends.”
His 23-year-old son, Nate, was his caddie. Nate, a professional who plays on the Canadian Tour, looked ready to hit a few shots for his father.
What this entourage witnessed was a collection of two birdies (on Nos. 2 and 16), eight bogeys and eight pars. There also was a string of mistakes that might seem normal for a Masters rookie. Except this is not your ordinary rookie.
McCoy logged eight practice rounds, perhaps more than any other player this year. He talked with longtime Masters competitors. He developed a strategy.
Alas, all his preparation didn’t seem to help. Such is Augusta National, a golf course that specializes in knocking golfers off their foundations.
Of course, McCoy still has a day job. He is an insurance executive with Arthur J. Gallagher and Co. in Des Moines, Iowa.
What many observers do not know is that McCoy, a Wichita State graduate, turned professional in the mid-1980s and tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the PGA Tour in 1985 and 1986. After those two failures, he sought reinstatement as an amateur.
This makes McCoy thoroughly qualified to talk with authority about the subject of amateur status.
“Knowing what I know now, I would not turn pro,” McCoy said. “I think there are lots of young golfers out there who would be better off as amateurs.
“There is no question that amateur golf has been good to me. It has enriched my life. It has made my life spectacular. I think more young golfers should remain amateurs. They should get involved in some kind of business. Mixing business and golf is a wonderful combination. I met many of my clients through golf. So my advice is to think carefully before becoming a professional.”
Having failed to convince his own son to avoid professional golf, McCoy seems determined to influence a few other youngsters.
“If I qualified to play in the Masters, other amateurs can do it, too,” he said.
There are other perks, as well: McCoy is a member of Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines, along with Seminole Golf Club in North Palm Beach, Fla., and Pine Valley (N.J.) Golf Club.