Virginia's McCarthy contends as individual at NCAAs

Virginia's Denny McCarthy during the first round of the NCAA Championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

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1Cheng Tsung PanWashington  66.95 
2Ollie SchniederjansGA Tech  67.53 
3Lee McCoyGeorgia  68.19 
4Charlie DanielsonIllinois  68.33 
5Hunter StewartVanderbilt  68.42 

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HUTCHINSON, Kan. – It was the day after NCAA regional play that Denny McCarthy decided to grow a "postseason individual beard."

Virginia did not advance to the NCAA Championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club, but he had as an individual for his second consecutive championship. He also advanced with the team as a freshman.

Therefore, he decided to grow his goatee, as "a new start" to make a run at a NCAA individual title. It makes him look much older than he actually is (21 to be exact), but for now it seems to be working.

“It’s a new look for now, but we’ll see how it works out,” the 5-foot-9, 160-pounder said.

The team struggled at the NCAA Columbia Regional and finished in seventh place, but for McCarthy, a junior, a final-round 67 vaulted him into position to advance as an individual.

“A weird feeling when it’s just me and no team,” said McCarthy. “But a big accomplishment for me.”

He took what he and head coach Bowen Sargent have worked on all spring – slowing everything down, “Walking, breathing, everything a normal person would do,” McCarthy said, as he has put it to good use, picking up four consecutive top-10 finishes heading into nationals.

He has also worked on short iron play and being able to control his short irons from different yardages.

This paid off in his first round at Prairie Dunes, where he fired his second-best score of the season with a 5-under 65. He had multiple wedge shots into the green, which resulted in birdie opportunities from inside 15 feet.

After Round 1, Sargent tweeted this off the Virginia Twitter account: @UVAMensGolf: “Well that was about as much fun as you can have without you team at the NCAA Championship.”

“It’s really special just to be apart of it a little bit, obviously it’s all him, but to come here and work, to put in the time, and the you see the reward, it’s cool,” Sargent said.

He shot a 1-over 71 in the second round in what is now a scheduled 54-hole championship. McCarthy is two shots back of Stanford’s Cameron Wilson after shooting 71-63 on Saturday.

• • •

Read more about the championship changes.

Stanford, Wilson on top of NCAA leaderboard

• • •

“I played really solid,” McCarthy added. “I hit it similar in both rounds, but my score doesn’t indicate that (in the second round)."

Through 36 holes of the championship, the leaderboard is star-studded, with the top four players in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings – Rodgers, Alabama’s Robby Shelton, Schniederjans and Rodgers’ teammate Cameron Wilson – all in the top 10.

McCarthy has two collegiate victories to his name, but this could be his true coming-out party. He has quietly been in the shadows of his competitors in the Class of 2015, with Rodgers, Schniederjans and former Alabama All-American Justin Thomas grabbing more attention.

“I know when I play my best golf, I can play with those guys,” McCarthy said. “I can compete with them on a day-to-day basis.”

He is looking to win the program’s first NCAA Championship since 1940 when Dixon Brooke won it at Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester, Vt.

“My hard work is paying off at the end of the year,” he added. “There are still a few more rounds, but I ultimately want to win a national championship.”

Fear the beard.

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