When the United States Golf Association called Denny McCarthy, the Virginia senior missed the call because he was celebrating a family member’s birthday. After calling the number back, McCarthy headed back downstairs to his assembled relatives with news which more than warranted a celebratory glass of champagne.
McCarthy had been selected as one of three golfers to represent the United States in the World Amateur Team Championships, to be played Sept. 10-13 in Karuizawa, Japan.
“This is the Olympics for our sports,” Virginia coach Bowen Sargent said. “We aren’t an Olympic sport at this point … so this is it. You look at past players here — its Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson — it’s the who’s who of PGA Golf. It’s a huge, huge honor to do this.”
And though McCarthy may not be a household name yet, one of Virginia’s most decorated golfers ever has held quite a bit of recent success.
McCarthy placed sixth at the NCAA Championships in May — the second best finish ever by a Cavalier in the event — finishing just two strokes behind the leaders with a 4-under 206 in 54 holes.
In August, McCarthy advanced to the semifinals of the 114th U.S. Amateur Championships, falling on the final hole and narrowly missing an exemption for the 2015 U.S. Open and an invitation to the 2015 Masters bestowed upon the U.S. Amateur finalists.
Since returning to Charlottesville following his successful summer, the senior’s attitude has subtly changed, Sargent said.
“He’s always been confident, but he seems much more confident,” Sargent said. “This World Amateur thing is a huge honor and I think he knows the meaning of it. I think there’s been a little extra bounce in his step because of that.”
As one of two seniors on this year’s Virginia team, McCarthy’s confidence could play an important role in mentoring younger players who want to reach similar heights. Sophomore Derek Bard advanced to the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur before being eliminated, while freshman Austen Truslow did not advance past the stroke play portion of the tournament to match play.
“I’m sure some of the younger freshman I’ve played with already have learned and observed how I play, how I manage my game on the course and how I handle certain situations,” McCarthy said. “I know Derek said he learned a lot from me just by watching my Round of 16 match when he was down there. So I think you can learn a lot just by watching. … It’s a game of continuous learning.”
But the Virginia underclassmen will have to wait before they can learn anything else from McCarthy, who will fly the 14 hours to Japan Thursday, Sept. 4 while his team heads to Sugar Grove, Illinois to open its season at the Northern Intercollegiate.
McCarthy will team up with Southern Methodist junior Bryson DeChambeau and Texas sophomore Beau Hossler, the latter of whom McCarthy played with in multiple tournaments this summer.
The biennial event, hosted by the International Golf Federation, spans four days of 18-hole stroke play. Each team’s score for the round is comprised of the lowest two individual scores of the day, and the four-day total is the team’s score for the championship.
The Eisenhower Trophy is presented to the winner of the event, an honor the United States currently holds. The United States has won 14 of the 28 World Amateur Team Championships since the event’s inception in 1958 — 10 more victories than Great Britain and Ireland, a tandem which has captured the second-most victories in the event’s history at four.
And though McCarthy expressed hesitation at the thought of missing almost two weeks of school for the tournament, he was clearly more excited to play in his biggest tournament thus far.
“I’ve been waiting for a couple of weeks now — ever since I got the call I’ve been pretty anxious,” McCarthy said. “It’s an honor to represent my country, especially in an event like this, with such a rich history.
“I feel like my game is intact,” he added. “I feel like I’m in more control of my game and my emotions than I ever have been before on the golf course. So I’m ready to go, I’m ready to represent my country well and hopefully bring back a title.”