Habersham Central’s Lee McCoy has always had a tremendous respect for the game of golf.
No matter how well you’re hitting the ball, the game can humble even the best player in the blink of an eye.
That’s why McCoy, the low medalist from this year’s Class AAAA state championship meet on May 7 with an 18-hole total of 68, never stops trying to improve.
Despite all the accolades and attention, McCoy is never completely satisfied with his play, even as one of the nation’s top-ranked junior players.
And his senior season was one of his best.
McCoy, a University of Georgia signee, managed to steady his game around the greens to win eight of 11 high school tournaments this spring. He finished the season with a stroke average of 69.
“I just love the challenge of playing golf,” said McCoy, who is ranked No. 9 among high school boys in the American Junior Golf Association’s Polo Rankings. “It’s a game you can never perfect, and everyone hits bad shots.
“I just love trying to get better.”
For his efforts, McCoy is The Times Boys Golfer of the Year.
McCoy’s performance at the state meet was especially satisfying. He carried home the state title after finishing in sixth place in each of his first three years of high school in Florida. However, his bogey-free round was bittersweet since he was playing as an individual qualifier and without his Raiders teammates.
“I told everyone I would trade the individual title for the team title,” McCoy said.
At state, he started his round on the first hole with a cannon of a tee shot, a blast with his 3-wood that went 270 yards down the middle of the fairway, erasing what he said was a disastrous practice round the previous day at the Jones Creek Golf Course in Augusta.
Then on No. 3, McCoy sank a 40-foot birdie putt that had about a two-foot break from left to right. And he was steady putting, needing only 12 shots on the green on the back nine.
“It was a joy for me to go out and win state against a great field,” McCoy said. “It wasn’t a long course, but it was tight. The biggest thing was that I didn’t make any major mistakes.”
Even though McCoy, originally from Clearwater, Fla., was already highly touted before his arrival on the Northeast Georgia high school scene, he said he evolved quite a bit playing with his new friends at Habersham Central.
“My ball striking was really solid all season,” McCoy said. “I was averaging about 14 greens a round.”
Along with winning a state title, his other favorite memory of the high school season was playing with his teammate Tanner Batson and shooting an 11-under par over 13 holes in the Golden Lion Two-Man Scramble, before it was called by rain.
“I think we only hit two bad shots all day,” McCoy said.
This weekend, McCoy is competing in the Thunderbird International Junior in Scottsdale, Ariz., an event reserved for the top 78 ranked boys and girls high school players in the world.
Already this year, McCoy claimed the Exide Technologies Junior Open title and tied for second in the HP Boys Championship at Carlton Woods, both American Junior Golf Association sanctioned events. Last summer, McCoy tied for second at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, also on the AJGA.
Many of McCoy’s earliest memories in life revolve around golf. The same player that practiced with plastic clubs at 1 1/2, and started hitting whiffle golf balls across the road at age 3, won the US Kids World Championship in Jekyll Island at 6.
“That was one of my first memories playing golf,” McCoy said. “I finished with an eagle, birdie on the last two holes to win by two strokes with a two-day (nine holes each day) total of 69.”
In the fall, McCoy will continue his golf career with the Bulldogs, where he started taking part in junior clinics as a kid under their coach Chris Haack. He wants to add to the long list of great players to come out of the Georgia program.
“I’m really looking forward to playing for coach Haack,” McCoy said.