There’s real star power playing in The Volunteers of America® Texas Shootout LPGA Tour this year. But, that fact doesn’t intimidate Maddie McCrary one bit.
This 5’6 powerhouse, a junior at Oklahoma State University, is barely 21 years old, but already exhibits the maturity it takes to compete on the LPGA circuit—something that’s been McCrary’s goal about as far back as she can remember. For the second time, she’s earned an exemption to play alongside the top-ranked LPGA players at the 2017 Texas Shootout, held April 24-30th at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas. And she plans to make the most of it.
Finding Her Passion Early
With her proficiency at the game, it’s no surprise that McCrary started playing golf early. But, without any golfers in the family, the way she discovered the sport was pure serendipity.
“Both of my parents are P.E. instructors, but neither of them play golf. My grandparents didn’t play, either. But, when I was five, one of our neighbors had a set of plastic golf clubs,” McCrary said. “I started going over there and swinging those little clubs, and I loved every minute.”
At an age where most interests are fleeting phases, at best, Maddie’s enchantment with golf was a constant. So, her parents enrolled her in a spring break golf camp at age 6, run by former touring pro Rick Woodson, Jr.
“He saw my potential—the fact that I had a strong body and, even at that age, a passion for golf,” McCrary said. “You can’t teach people passion—you either have it or you don’t.”
Woodson has been McCrary’s golf coach and oft-times caddie ever since.
“I constantly see my game growing, so there’s no reason to change coaches,” McCrary said.
One look at McCrary’s performance over the years and it’s hard to disagree. Whether she’s playing individually or as part of OSU’s Cowgirl golf team, the lady knows how to win.
This is not to say that those victories come without some very hard work.
“We have workouts at 6:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I try to get in a couple more every week—I like to do a lot of speed drills and do work out pretty hard. Class starts at 8:30, I break for lunch, then the rest of the day is team practice and preparing for tournaments,” McCrary said. “Then, I go home, do my homework, eat dinner, go to sleep and do it all again the next day.”
One other thing; she also can’t leave the course until she holes out a bunker shot every day.
“It’s something Coach Rick (Woodson Jr.) has challenged me to do since I was 13—it started as a bet or kind of a game—and I never stopped,” McCrary said. “Now, I love bunker shots. I’ve holed out two already today so I’m good to go.”
Overcoming Injury—in a Big Way
Although McCrary’s practice discipline is impressive unto itself, when you consider the fact that she’s less than a year out from her last hip surgery, it’s clear that she won’t let anything stop her from achieving her goals.
“I had holed out a shot at the Texas Junior Legends, jumped up in sheer happiness, and ended up tearing my labrum,” she said. “When I went to see about that injury, the doctor told me that my femur was too big for its socket, so he needed to shave that bone down or I’d have problems later on.”
She had the surgery. But, the summer before last, her hip started hurting again.
“I went to another doctor who told me that the original surgeon didn’t shave the bone down enough, so the only way I could control the pain was to go back in and have the bone shaved some more,” McCrary said. “I did that surgery last June. I can’t tell you how happy I am that all of that is over with.”
Preparing for The Volunteers of America Texas Shootout
Although McCrary qualified for the Texas Shootout once before and didn’t make the cut, she learned a lot from playing with the pros.
“I love watching how the LPGA players shape the ball,” she said. “When I played two years ago, I noticed how much more fine-tuned their short games were, compared to mine. They hit the ball higher so it stuck on the greens—which are fast on that course. That’s where I lost strokes. I kept hitting my shots over the greens.”
So, she’s been working on her trajectory, as well as fine-tuning her mental game.
“I used to get angry at myself when I hit a bad shot, which doesn’t help anything. The past is the past,” McCrary said. “Now, I focus on my breathing. That really helps me calm down and keep my composure so I can hit the next shot well.”
As for playing against an international field of seasoned, top-ranked players, McCrary has no fear.
“I’ve got Coach Rick on my bag and by my side and I’ve done the work,” she said. “I’m going to approach the Shootout like I approach every other tournament. I go in trying to win.”
Planning for Her Own Pro Career
McCrary is well aware that she couldn’t have come so far without her parents’ support and encouragement.
“My parents have been great—supportive from the beginning. They never try to coach me at golf—my mother still has to ask if a hole is a par 4 or par 5 sometimes,” McCrary said. “If I need golf advice, I go to Coach Rick. If I’m having a down day, I call my mom. She’s the one who tells me to keep my chin up.“
Although McCrary doesn’t have a “typical” college life, she believes that foregoing some social events for practice is a fair tradeoff for a chance to realize her dreams.
“Right now, women’s golf is just exploding. There are so many winning players on the LPGA Tour under the age of 25. I’m a big fan of Lexie Thompson and Lydia Ko; they skipped college and went for it, which was an awesome choice for them,” she said. “I’ve gone the college route, so it will take me a little longer to get to the Tour—but, I’ll get there. I’m definitely going to get there.”
Her advice for anyone, like her, with a big dream?
“Dedicate your time and efforts where your heart leads you, and your hard work will eventually pay off,” she said.
With a golf game and attitude like she has, I think we’ll be talking about Maddie McCrary for a very, very long time.
The Volunteers of America Texas Shootout LPGA Tour will be held April 26-30, 2017 at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas. For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, visit LPGATexasShootout.com.