McCoy wins his lifelong dream: a USGA title
Mike McCoy has been a dominating presence in his home state of Iowa for nearly a quarter century. He’s won just about everything there is to win there – and usually more than once.
McCoy also has had his share of success outside the Hawkeye State. He has won the Coleman Invitational in Florida, the Crump Cup at Pine Valley, the Thomas Invitational in California and two Trans-Mississippi Match Play titles. He has had high finishes in such premier events as the Northeast, Sunnehanna, Porter Cup and Western amateurs.
He has played in more than 35 USGA championships, with his best showing before this year having been a semifinalist at the 2005 and '08 U.S. Mid-Amateurs.
Still, when he turned 50 last November, McCoy might have thought his best years were behind him and his dream of a USGA national title was all but gone.
As all of us who play and follow golf know, however, dreams can come true in this great game, no matter one’s age.
That certainly was the case for McCoy on Thursday when the insurance executive from West Des Moines captured the biggest prize of his golfing career, winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur with a dominating 8-and-6 victory over Bill Williamson, 36, of Cincinnati at the Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.) West Course.
“I’ve been trying (to win a USGA championship) for a long time,” said McCoy, the second oldest Mid-Amateur champion, behind Randal Lewis, who was 54 in 2011. “I’ve been chasing that dream, and it came true today.”
From my point of view, it was a long overdue and most deserving triumph for one of the nicest guys in golf, amateur or pro. Finally, his game backed up his personality and demeanor. I can’t imagine anyone who has met McCoy to walk away with a sour taste in his mouth.
Even after qualifying for this year’s U.S. Senior Open on his first try, later qualifying for the U.S. Amateur once again, and then adding his most impressive showing throughout this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, McCoy never faltered from his usual humble, down-to-earth mannerisms. Win or lose, he's always a gentleman.
And this time it was a win, on the national stage.
“I love golf. I love to practice. I love to play competitive. It truly is my passion,” McCoy said after winning his quarterfinal and semifinal matches Wednesday. “It’s really exciting to have something like this happen.”
After finishing fifth in the stroke-play qualifying, McCoy had his closest match in the opening round, winning 1 up over Bobby Leopold. McCoy won in the second round, 4 and 2, before a 2-and-1 victory in the Round of 16.
Then he became the dominator. He won his quarterfinal match, 7 and 6, over Bradley Bastion and his semifinal, 4 and 3, over 2005 U.S. Mid-Am champ Kevin Marsh.
The scheduled 36-hole championship match was all McCoy starting on the fourth hole of the morning session. Williamson won the first hole, but McCoy squared the match at the fourth and never would again trail.
“This is such a very special day for me,” McCoy said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “This was something I’ve been trying to do, like, forever. To finally have it happen means a lot to me; it really does.”
In the title match, McCoy, a 1985 Wichita State graduate and 1988 reinstated amateur, won holes 5 and 6 and added 12, 17 and 18 to go 5 up after the first 18 holes.
He then won holes 20, 23 and 24 to go 8 up. After Williamson won the 26th, McCoy closed things out with a birdie-3 at the 30th hole.
“It’s been a fun, great week,” McCoy said. “From start to finish, I really played great. Since it’s been over, my phone’s been blowing up with voicemails, e-mails, texts, you name it. This is amazing stuff.”
Within the Hawkeye State, McCoy could be considered Mr. Golf, with no disrespect or offense to his good friend and another great Iowa amateur, Gene Elliott.
After advancing to the semifinals at the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur, McCoy told me, “The ultimate would be to win a USGA event. That would be a dream come true for me. Right now I’m closer than I’ve ever been, so, hey, you never know,”
It took eight more years, but that dream finally did come true for McCoy, who along with his wife Beth have four children: Nate, Megan, Danny and Erin.
Still there is more to McCoy than just swinging a club or making a putt.
“He is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” said Mark Passey, who has been working scoreboards for the USGA the more than 20 years, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like him. As a golfer, he has been a consistent, good player for a long time. It seems I’ve been putting his name on scoreboards forever.”
Added Bryan Norton, the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up from Mission Hills, Kan., “Mike is everybody’s friend. He always seems to have a smile on his face, and he always seems to be there to congratulate you on your success or console you, if that be the case. He’s just a great guy.”
That he is.
And how about the kicker of all kickers. No matter what happens, McCoy’s dream will continue six months from now when he tees it up in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. The Mid-Amateur champion has long earned a Masters invitation, and no doubt what a thrill it’s going to be for this talented golfer from West Des Moines.
“I think this goes to show you to never give up,” McCoy said. “If you keep at it, good things can happen. And to know I’ll be playing in the Masters is pretty special, really amazing stuff.”
A USGA national championship and a spot in the starting field at the 2014 Masters. Yes, dreams do come true.