Syracuse's Dan McCarthy takes aim at the Web.com Tour
After a record setting 2016 on the Mackenzie Tour, Syracuse native Dan McCarthy is off to strong start in his first fully-exempt year on the Web.com Tour. Through the first two events of 2017, McCarthy has made two cuts in two events, with a 4th place finish at the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Growing up in Dewitt, a suburb of Syracuse, McCarthy developed his game playing at Drumlins Country Club. He played competitively in high school golf at Christian Brothers Academy and locally in district tournaments. McCarthy went on to play collegiate golf at Le Moyne College in Syracuse from 2005-2007 and holds the Dolphin's all-time stroke average at 74.02.
Playing competitive golf in the northeast can be complicated by weather, but those experiences have helped shape McCarthy as a professional today.
"It's taught me to play in some really nasty conditions," McCarthy said. "I tend to play a little bit better in the cold, the wind, the rain and all the elements in tournaments to this day just because I've been playing in it for so long."
After graduating from Le Moyne in 2007, McCarthy turned professional. He moved down to Florida and competed in the Minor League Golf Tour, where he would go on to earn nearly $140,000 with 46 wins. He struggled in the Mackenzie and Web.com Tour events he was able to enter, being unable to get everything in his game to click.
“It was quite the eye-opener, going from college golf into the professional ranks. Toughest thing for me to get used to was that shooting 71 and 72 in college and amateur events was a good score, but then starting to play professionally you had to shoot mid-60’s, high 60’s, stuff like that if you wanted to get in contention and win,” he said. “I’ve been able to adapt over the course of my career at the level I’m playing at.”
In 2010, McCarthy achieved a lifetime dream of qualifying for the U.S. Open Championship which was held at the famous Pebble Beach. He advanced through the local qualifier in Syracuse at Bellevue CC, his home club while in the region. In the sectional qualifier at the Canoe Brook Country Club North Course in New Jersey, his two rounds of 70 put him at 4-under par for a second-place finish which secured him one of the four spots for the U.S. Open.
“That was a really special moment, I’ll never forget it, I still talk about it often to do this day with people,” he said. “That’s definitely up there on the list of most special places to play a major championship.”
For McCarthy, playing in the U.S. Open Championship was more about the experience of being there at his young age. He missed the cut but still had nothing bad to say about the tournament.
“I was a bit shell shocked going out there at that time, I’m a much better player now, so I think I would fare better in a major championship then I did back then,” he said. “It was an awesome experience to know that I could play at a high enough level to get into arguably the best championship in the world, which was definitely a huge confidence boost.”
After the U.S. Open, he continued to be successful on the Minor League Tour, but struggled to in limited appearances on the Web.com and Mackenzie Tours for the next three years.
In 2014 and 2015, he played in 23 Mackenzie Tour events, making the cut 14 times with three top-10 finishes. The following year changed everything for Dan McCarthy as a professional golfer trying to make it on the PGA Tour.
It started with him advancing through the McKenzie Tour Qualifying “Q” School, so that he had full status and wouldn’t need to qualify for individual tournaments. with full status. He would win for the first time at the Freedom 55 Financial Open, held in May in Vancouver.
“Doing it on the Mackenzie Tour, there’s so many benefits to playing well up there as far as advancing your career to the Web.com Tour,” he said. “That was just massive for me, definitely a turning point.”
Getting that monkey off his back was no easy task at the Freedom 55 Financial Open. With multiple players within a stroke of the lead, McCarthy’s birdie on 18 in the final round helped him outpace Tyler McCumber’s runner-up score of 14-under.
The win seemed to open the floodgates for McCarthy. In the next four Mackenzie tournaments he won two more, and finished tied for sixth and eighth in the other two.
His second victory, at the GolfBC Championship, was a domination of the player field with a 25-under par seven-stroke win. He matched his 25-under total and seven-stroke margin again, ironically, a few weeks later at the Players Cup for his third victory of the season.
As the season came to an end, he captured the Cape Breton Open on September 4th, scoring 18-under for the tournament.
His total earnings of $157,843 on the Mackenzie Tour is a Tour record and led to his fully exempt status Web.com Tour for 2017.
At age 31, McCarthy may seem old but his dream to make the PGA Tour still does not fade from him despite golfers tending to peak early.
“Statistically you enter the prime of your golfing career between the ages 30-35, so it was important for me to start making those kind of steps, and winning tournaments at that level,” he said. “It was really great for me to see that I’m still progressing, and getting better, and hopefully on track to make the PGA Tour either next year, or sometime in the near future.”
McCarthy gives credit for his recent emergence to his new swing coach Dennis Tiziani. It was a tough transition for him at first to adjust to some of Tiziani’s tactics, but the amount of practice he has put in the last few seasons has paid off towards his success.
“I got a good handle on it in the spring time of last year and was able to translate it a bit to more consistency, and I learned how to maintain it better,” he said. “I’ve always had a good mindset on the golf course; my brain has definitely been one of my better assets. So combine that with good mechanics, trust, and a whole lot repetition and practice. That was kind of the recipe with what happened last year.”
McCarthy talked about some of the players and careers he admires in professional golf, but the one he admires the most would happen to be his swing coach Tiziani’s son-in-law, Steve Stricker.
Much like McCarthy’s own game, Stricker was never too flashy, rather plays with discipline and conservativism.
“I always thought Steve Stricker had the most efficient, low stress type of golf game, and I think that’s the best way to play,” he said. “I really admired the way he played the game and the way he approached it, he learned never to try to do something he couldn’t do.”
With all this new success and progression in McCarthy’s career, it would be hard not to think could happen if his play continued. Keeping a narrow mind is critical for golfers and all athletes in reality, and that is something McCarthy has stressed in himself as well.
“The goal at the end of the year obviously is to make enough money and earn your PGA Tour card,” he said. “You can’t really set your sights too far down the road; one of the things I learned and did really well with last year was just breaking it down to one shot at a time.”
McCarthy is set to play next week’s Club Colombia Championship in Bogota, Columbia (February 9-12).
Luke Scoville, Contributing Writer