A quick glance at the top of the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com U.S. Amateur rankings will show the following:
No. 1 – Rickie Fowler, Age 20, Contemplating a business major
No. 2 – Zack Sucher, Age 22, Communications major
No. 3 – Adam Mitchell, Age 22, Finance major
No. 4 – Mark Anderson, Age 23, 2008 graduate of South Carolina
Coming in at No. 5 is Mike McCoy, a bit of an outlier compared to the other four.
No. 5 – Mike McCoy, Age 46, Commercial Insurance Broker, 4 kids
McCoy, who breaks up the large group of twentysomethings atop the amateur rankings, is fully aware of any disadvantage his age puts him at. Unlike a college player, who is constantly being groomed for the professional game, McCoy has other things on his plate. With a family and a full work schedule, the balancing act he performs in preparation for each tournament makes his success that much more special.
“You do the best you can,” said McCoy, who lives in West Des Moines, Iowa. “Golf is very demanding, but it’s just about walking that fine line and trying to keep everybody happy. That’s sort of the life of an amateur golfer. We have other matters that are more serious than our golf games.”
McCoy spends enough time playing against college players to be constantly reminded that he graduated more than 25 years ago. He knows he isn’t able to keep up with the length of the youngster’s games, so he must find other ways to succeed.
“I hit the ball solid, but I certainly don’t overpower golf courses,” McCoy said. “You have to be a little more tactical and try to out-putt them.”
Despite the fact that his college golf days are far behind him, McCoy, a graduate of Wichita State, has found middle-aged success in an amateur game typically dominated by college stars. In 2009, he already has four top-10 finishes, taking second at the Coleman Invitational, third at the Azalea Invitational and the Lupton Invitational and sixth at the Jones Cup. Last year, he advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur and the round of 32 in the U.S. Amateur, in addition to winning the Trans-Mississippi Mid-Am for the second time.
Outside of the physical challenges of playing against golfers less than half his age, McCoy, ranked No. 13 in the world in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com World Amateur Rankings, said there are still other things to think about.
“I think the feeling that you’re running out of time is a big mental challenge,” he said. “But at the same time, maybe that’s a positive in the sense that it crystallizes the fact that you need to play well now, not next week. You have to play good every time you have the opportunity to get out and do it.”
Although he’s had success in his Mid-Am career, McCoy still has his sights set on bigger things – making the 2009 Walker Cup team.
“I think that is the highlight of most amateurs’ careers,” he said. “I’ve never experienced it, but it would be a wonderful opportunity and a great way to fulfill a lot of years of practice and work.”
McCoy’s chances of being selected for the ‘09 squad haven’t been hurt by the decisions of 2007 team members Kyle Stanley and Billy Horschel to turn professional before the event.
“(Those players turning professional) is sort of a double-edged sword,” McCoy said. “You want your best team out there because it’s an important competition and you want to win. But on the other hand, if they choose to go another direction with their career, that creates an opening, and you of course try to take advantage of those opportunities.”
The 2009 Walker Cup is scheduled for September 12-13 at Pennsylvania’s Merion Golf Club, a course McCoy became familiar with at the 2005 U.S. Amateur.
“I think it’s a great golf course that tests all parts of the game,” he said. “In that respect, I feel like I can be effective and competitive on a golf course like that – one that isn’t a 7,800-yard ‘grip it and rip it’ kind of situation. I think it demands a lot of precision and makes power a lesser part of the equation.”
Without the national recognition college players receive, McCoy has a simple strategy for throwing his name into the hat U.S. Walker Cup captain Buddy Marucci will choose his team from.
“You have to go play a pretty full schedule,” he said. “You just get out there and compete and play and there’s really no getting around that. Unless you win the U.S. Amateur or something, I think you just have to show up and post a score.”