golf journey began as a young boy in the caddie yard of Wakonda Country Club in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. It was from those humble beginnings McCoy has built a distinguished resume as one of the most accomplished amateur golfers of his era.
McCoy, 59, has played in 65 USGA Championships, including 20 U.S. Amateurs, 21 U.S. Mid-Amateurs and eight U.S. Senior Opens. In 2013 at the age of 50, he became the second-oldest winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur when he defeated Bill Williamson, 8 and 6, in the 36-hole final at the Country Club of Birmingham. The win, which came in his 38th USGA event, helped him secure a spot on the 2015 Walker Cup team that competed at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, earning McCoy the distinction of being the third-oldest competitor in the event’s long history.
He is also a four-time winner of the Crump Cup at Pine Valley and has won the George C. Coleman Invitational at Seminole Golf Club, where he is a member. Earlier this month, he added the Florida Senior Amateur championship to his portfolio.
Closer to home, McCoy has won five Iowa Amateur, six Mid-Amateur and one Senior Amateur titles, cementing him as Iowa’s best-known golfer not named Zach Johnson or as McCoy himself might add, Gene Elliott
, his longtime friend and West Des Moines resident who won both the U.S. Senior and R&A Senior Amateurs last summer.
Recognizing the volume of his accomplishments in his home state and on the national level, the USGA in March named McCoy the captain of the USA Team for the 2023 Walker Cup Match which will be held on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
In a letter supporting McCoy’s nomination two-time Walker Cup Captain Buddy Marucci, Jr. said: “The excellence of his game is obvious. What may not be so obvious to those who have not played with him is just how well he handles himself, win or lose. The game of golf is still and will always be a gentleman’s game, and Mike is the best example I know. He has been a great representative of the State of Iowa.”
In this installment of “A Quick Nine,” McCoy talks about his selection as the next Walker Cup captain, his Iowa roots and his goals for the upcoming season.
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A Quick Nine with Mike McCoy
What were your thoughts when you learned you were named Walker Cup captain?
I was tremendously humbled, grateful and honored for the opportunity. Making the Walker Cup team was certainly one of the great highlights of my life and I just want to make it a great experience for the players who will make up our next team in 2023. I’m looking forward to the whole process.
Do you get extra chills knowing the 2023 Walker Cup will be played on the Old Course at St. Andrews?
I love the Old Course. I’ve been lucky to play in some St. Andrews Links Trophy events and a few Senior Opens at St. Andrews and it’s such a special place. I’m really looking forward to seeing the wonder and joy on our player’s faces when they stand on the first tee and look out across the course where so much history has been made. It’s like nothing else in golf.
What unique attributes do you bring to the position?
Well, I played on a losing team in 2015 so I know how hard it is to win. I’ve competed all over the world so I’m familiar with all of the emotions and preparation that is required to be successful. They’re all going to be great players so hopefully, I can offer a steady hand and get out of the way and let them do their thing.
You made the Walker Cup team in 2015 at the age of 51. Do you have a different perspective on the experience having made the team later in your career? Mike McCoy won the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur championship
I had a lot of friends who made previous teams and I know how special it was for them. It was a special experience. Looking back on it, the other players and I were in different worlds off the course. They were enjoying their collegiate experience, and some were planning on touring pro while I was focused on business and mid-am golf. But being able to watch up close the younger players fulfilling their dreams is part of the beauty of the whole experience.
It’s such a privilege to be able to represent your country. It has a very patriotic feel to it. It’s also special to be a part of golf history. What a great thing it is for countries to come together, compete and grow closer. The Walker Cup fosters such goodwill between counties, the USGA, the Royal & Ancient and builds friendships that last a lifetime. It’s an honor of a lifetime to be able to represent your country.
Turn back the clocks to when you were a young player. What’s the difference between the players you’ll be leading next year at St. Andrews compared to when you were that age?
They’re just a lot better, way better. Not to say we didn’t have some great players back in the day but it usually took players from my generation longer to break through, get their tour card and win. The younger players today expect to win right away and we’ve seen examples of that. It’s just amazing.
Did you ever think two guys from Iowa would captain the Walker Cup and Ryder Cup teams in the same year?
For everyone in Iowa, it’s something to be really proud of. I’m so thrilled for Zach and his opportunity and coincidentally we’ll be captains in the same year. We’ve exchanged some texts and I’m sure we’ll get together soon to discuss what’s ahead of us. Everyone in Iowa is really proud of Zach and we’ll all be pulling for him and the guys. He’s a terrific guy.
Tell us a little bit about your Iowa roots?
I started working as a caddie at Wakonda Club which was near our house. I was pretty young but that’s how I was introduced to golf. I got bit by the bug at a very early age and by junior high, I pretty much made up my mind that’s what I wanted to focus on. There are so many people who were instrumental in my development. Bill Rose, the pro at Wakonda, was a great teacher. Sarge Fontanini of Des Moines was the first amateur Iowan to play in the Masters. He was a great player, a wonderful gentleman and someone who had a great influence on me. My parents weren’t golfers, but they were always very supportive and encouraged me to get out and play whenever I could. And now, I enjoy playing with my own sons (Nate and Danny), which brings me great joy.
The Iowa Golf Association has also played an important role in my life. They have a nice summer schedule and it was through their tournaments I learned to compete. It was like our own little tour with a lot of great players. I eventually started playing well enough to get into some national amateur tournaments but if it wasn’t for the Iowa Golf Association, I might not be playing as much competitive golf as I do today. I give the IGA a lot of credit.
Des Moines was a nice place to grow up and is still a great place to live. It’s everything I could want.
Can you tell us about your friendship with Gene Elliott? Mike McCoy (L) and Gene Elliott
Gene and I have been competing against each other since we were 16 and we still can’t seem to shake each other. We’ve been the best of friends over the years. We’ve traveled the world together, competed together as partners and against one another in some big matches. We both root for each other. He had a dream year in 2021 and has set a very high bar for others. I’m really proud of what he has accomplished. Gene’s been a great player forever and its been fun to see him have the success he’s had. And he seems more determined than ever.
You still keep a very active schedule as a player. What are some of your goals for this season and what’s your routine at home?
I just want to play well. I’ve always enjoyed practicing and preparing to play a tournament is still a lot of fun for me. You can’t always control how you’ll play from week to week but I still love the chase and getting ready for a tournament. I’m in pretty good form right now so I’m hopeful.
I live on a course called Echo Valley Country Club. On the weekends, I tend to practice a lot. I have a golf cart in my garage so I’ll drive down to the range, hit a lot of balls and chip and putt. Sometimes I’ll go out in the early evening and play a few holes by myself, hitting 3-4 balls. I have a little game with some guys at the club but I tend to play most of my golf on the road in tournaments. I do practice quite a bit at home because I’m still working full-time. Getting out with my kids is what I enjoy doing the most on the weekends -- and hitting balls.
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The Mike McCoy File
Nov. 21, 1962, in Des Moines, Iowa
Nate, Megan, Danny and Erin; Cade and Corbin Nichol
Echo Valley Country Club
• 11-time Iowa Player of the Year – ’83,’92,’93,’94,’96,’01,’05,’08,’09,’10,’13
• IGA Senior Player of the Year – 2013
• 6-time Iowa Mid-Amateur Champion – ’93,’95,’97,’03,’05,’06
• 6-time Iowa Amateur Champion – ’92,’95,’96,’98,’10,’15
• 5-time IGA Four-Ball Champion – ’06,’12,’15,’16,’17
• 4-time Herman Sani Invitation Champion – ’91,’92,’96,’02
• 4-time Lake Creek Amateur Champion – ’92,’94,’95,’05
• 3-time Fort Dodge Amateur Champion – ’93,’94,’00
• 2-time Briarwood Amateur Champion – ’10 & ’12
• 2021 Iowa Senior Amateur Champion
• 2012 Iowa Masters Champion
• 1994 IGA Match Play Champion
• 1994 Iowa Open Champion
• 1982 Tournament of Champions Winner
• 4-time Crump Cup Champion at Pine Valley – ’04,’05,’07,’10
• 3-time Coleman Invitational Champion at Seminole Golf Club – 2011, ’13, ’15
• 2-time Trans-Mississippi Champion – ’00,’08
• 2012 Trans-Miss Four-Ball Champion (with Gene Elliott)
• 2014 George T. Thomas Invitational Champion
• 2018 Trans-Miss Senior Champion
• 2021 George T. Thomas Invitational – Senior Division Champion
• 2022 Florida Senior Amateur Champion
• 20 U.S. Amateurs
• 21 U.S. Mid-Amateurs – Champion – 2013, Semifinalist in ’05 and ’08
• U.S. Amateur Public Links – 1982, 1983
• U.S. Four-Ball Championship – 2015, 2019
• U.S. Senior Open – 2013, 2014 (Low Am), 2015 (Low Am), 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021
• U.S. Senior Amateur – 2018, 2019, 2021
• USGA Men’s State Team – 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2016
• U.S. Walker Cup Team – 2015, 2023 (Captain)
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