Former UVA All-American Denny McCarthy is in his third year on the PGA Tour. Like all other athletes, McCarthy’s season was unexpectedly interrupted due to COVID-19. This year he had three top-10 finishes (RSM Classic, Houston Open & Shriners Hospital for Children Open), had earned over $800,000 and was 56th in the FedEx Cup rankings. He shares some thoughts about golf, March Madness and how he is making out in this Hoos Life segment.
Q: Where were you and what was your reaction when you learned the Tour was going to be put on hold for an extended time?
McCarthy: I was at fellow Hoo Ben Kohles’ place in Jacksonville when we found out on Thursday night that the Players would be canceled. I didn’t know what to think at the time but we found out shortly after that all the events leading up to the Masters would be canceled. Obviously, they’ve canceled a lot more since then.
Q: Where did you go immediately afterwards and is that where you are now?
McCarthy: I drove home to my place in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and have been here since.
Q: What are you doing to practice and keep your game sharp while not competing in tournaments?
McCarthy: I’m fortunate that both of my clubs are still open down here, Medalist and Turtle Creek. Both clubs are taking extreme precautionary measures but I’ve been able to get some good games with the other pros out at Medalist.
Q: How are you dealing with cabin fever. What are some things you are doing now that you don’t normally do to fill your time?
McCarthy: I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix shows. A buddy got me hooked on this board game called Settlers of Catan. It’s a very strategic game that kills a few hours and I highly recommend it. I also got some new outdoor patio furniture at my place and put some lights up around it, so we’ve been hanging outside at nights.
Q: How do you keep yourself motivated with such a disruption in your schedule?
McCarthy: Even though this down time is tough, I’ve still been very active and competitive. Whether it’s playing ping-pong with my roommates in the garage or getting games out at Medalist, I’ve kept my competitive energy levels up. I just like competing and I’ll be ready when we get called back to play.
Q: Who are your best friends on the Tour and how often are you talking to them?
McCarthy: I’ve been talking to Ben Kohles a decent amount. Peter Uihlein, Matt Wolff, Bud Cauley are all members at Medalist and we’ve been having a lot of fun just playing and hanging out.
Q: You were having a solid year. How was season going before the Tour stopped?
McCarthy: I had a really nice fall which was a nice boost to start the year. I was making cuts early this calendar year out on the West Coast, but I didn’t have my best stuff. I feel like I was just starting to figure some things out the week of the Players and was looking forward to a nice stretch of tournaments. I’ve always played well late spring and into the summer, and I look forward to finishing the season strong when we get going again.
Q: You birdied No. 16 at the Phoenix Open all four days. What was that experience like?
McCarthy: It was ho hum, nothing special. Ha, just kidding. It was unbelievable and so much fun. I like that kind of big, rowdy atmosphere and that’s as rowdy as it gets!
Q: You’re a big basketball fans, what is it like not having March Madness?
McCarthy: I don’t know how to describe it. I’m more upset about no basketball than not playing myself. I was really looking forward to watching UVA in the tournament this year. They were trending in the right direction, and I truly believe that they were capable of making another deep run this year. Tony Bennett and his team have so much heart and grit. It’s so much fun to watch them succeed. They are going to be a threat for a long time and I can’t wait to watch them going forward.
Q: Didn’t you go to the Final Four last year? Was that a spur of the moment decision? What was that like?
McCarthy: Yes. We had a ticket connection if they got that far. Ben Kohles and I had been talking about it and when they beat Auburn on Saturday, we booked flights and got there Monday morning, the day of the National Championship. It was incredible to witness that in person, especially since our seats were so good. We were so close to the action. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Q: What from your experience as a student at UVA has helped you deal with the current situation?
McCarthy: UVA was tough, but I really like how it challenged me and ultimately made me tougher. I think my experience there has helped me get through a lot of things in life, whether it’s pushing through and overcoming different types of adversity or controlling what I can control and using my time wisely.
Q: How did the news hit you that the college sports were shutting down and the golfers would not be able to complete their seasons?
McCarthy: It’s really unfortunate. Especially for many of the upperclassmen, you think about all those hours you put in for so many days, months, years and all of that just comes to a sudden end. It’s a very strange time for sure, but we will get through this and come back with a great appreciation for all the things that we likely took for granted.
Q: Golf is unique in that the players are basically independent contractors. What impact do you think the suspension of the tour will have on the sport if any?
McCarthy: The tour has done a good job of providing its members with the option to receive some money right now. I think what you also might see when we start back up again is that they will increase some of the field sizes to get more guys opportunities to play. It is certainly a difficult time, but they have brought forth some great alternatives during this time.
Q: What do you miss most about the Tour right now?
McCarthy: I miss competing. It’s what I do best and it’s hard to simulate that exact feeling of being under a little pressure but I’m managing it for the time being. I miss hanging with the guys, going out to dinners, traveling to cool places.