Semifinalist McCoy Sticking To Game, Not Past History
By David Shefter, USGA
River Hills, Wis. – Mike McCoy isn’t buying into it. He doesn’t want to hear about past history.
The only concern for the 45-year-old from West Des Moines, Iowa, is his next shot.
Forget the fact that every person who has defeated Jeff Wilson in the round of 16 or beyond at the U.S. Mid-Amateur since 2000 has hoisted the Bob Jones Memorial Trophy.
For the record, that’s five different golfers, beginning with Greg Puga in 2000 and followed by Tim Jackson (2001), George Zahringer (2002), Austin Eaton III (2004) and Dave Womack (2006). Only the latter came in the third round. The middle two occurred in the semifinals and the others were quarterfinal matches.
On Wednesday morning at Milwaukee Country Club, McCoy defeated his fellow 45-year-old and good friend from Fairfield, Calif., 3 and 2, to advance to the Mid-Amateur semifinals for the second time. McCoy reached the final four in 2005 at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn., and lost to eventual runner-up Carlton Forrester.
“I heard all about it,” said McCoy of the history with Wilson. “It’s unfortunate. He’s a great player. I’ve been friends with him for many years. I know he’s got one of the best short games in golf. It was my day and it worked.
“I’m taking it one shot at a time right now and trying not to get involved with the results.”
The match between two USGA championship veterans figured to be tight and it was. With four holes to play, McCoy was clinging to a 1-up advantage. But he stuck a wedge approach to 7 feet to set up a winning birdie at the par-5 15th hole, and then he hit one of his best shots of the week at the 483-yard, par-4 16th. Faced with 242 yards to the flagstick, McCoy ran his 3-wood approach to 4 feet, and the ensuing birdie closed out the match.
McCoy continued what has been a dose of solid play this summer for the reinstated amateur (1987) who played his college golf at Wichita State. In July, McCoy won the prestigious Trans-Mississippi Amateur in his hometown of Des Moines (Wakonda C.C.), and he was one of four mid-amateurs (25 and over) to win a first-round match at last month’s U.S. Amateur in Pinehurst. And this week, he has yet to play beyond the 16th hole in four matches.
“I think I’ve taken a little bit more of a thoughtful approach to things,” said McCoy, an insurance agent. “I’m a little more self confident versus getting too much into the mechanics.”
Early on, McCoy’s ball-striking was a little off. He only reached three of nine greens on the first nine and scrambled well enough to be all square with Wilson, the owner of a car dealership, over that stretch. Things definitely kicked in on the second nine, as McCoy registered four birdies against just two bogeys (both players made 5 at the par-4 10th).
“I thought my ball position was up a bit too far,” said McCoy, who faces Steve Wilson of Ocean Springs, Miss., in one semifinal Wednesday afternoon. “I moved it back a little and hit some nice wedge shots. We’ll just see if we can find it this afternoon again.”
Wilson, who played his last six holes of stroke play at MCC in six over and was a part of a 19-for-14 playoff for the final match-play spots, was the equivalent of two over par for 16 holes, with the usual match-play concessions. But his normally solid short game disappeared during parts of the match, none more so than the par-3 12th hole, where he lipped out a 3-foot par putt to fall 1 down. McCoy, who was even par over 16 holes, then stuck his approach at No. 13 to 5 feet for a winning birdie and a 2-up advantage. Wilson won No. 14 with a par, but could pull no closer.
“I just got beat,” said Wilson, a four-time U.S. Open qualifier and the low amateur in 2000. “I really didn’t play that bad. Mike just closed the deal out there. I wish I could have gone a little farther in this thing.”
When asked about the history of his Mid-Amateur opponents going on to win, Wilson just smiled.
“Oh, I know. I’m well aware of it,” he said. “I hope Mike wins. I really do.”
David Shefter is a USGA New Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.