Back in April, we introduced you to Maddie McCrary, a determined, energetic Oklahoma State University golf standout who had just qualified to play in the LPGA’s 2017 Volunteers of America Texas Shootout.
Today, this 21-year-old senior is one step closer to earning her own spot on the LPGA Tour. This month, McCrary made it through LPGA Qualifying School Stage II, and now moves on to Stage III—the final test—in late November. Her long-time coach Rick Woodson, Jr., a former touring player himself, will be by her side and on her bag as she competes against the other Tour hopefuls.
It’s what they’ve been working toward for the past decade.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Woodson said. “We started working together when Maddie was six years old. By the time she was 11 or 12, she said she wanted to play on the LPGA Tour, and I’ve been training her like a Tour player ever since.”
The Confidence to Compete Like a Pro
Getting this far in Q-school is a feat in and of itself. The competition is stiff—comprised of amateurs, professional players from smaller tours, European players, and LPGA players attempting to regain their cards.
Despite the high stakes, McCrary played with the mental strength of a seasoned champion. And, that made all of the difference.
“I struggled a little on the third day of the Stage II competition. I had a triple on the front nine, but I didn’t panic. I knew I was in good position because I played really well the first two days, and knew I had an entire 9 holes in front of me that day, and 18 more the next day,” McCrary said. “I knew what I needed to do, and just tried to give myself a chance.”
That on-course confidence has been a work-in-progress—something Woodson believes is every bit as important as physical technique.
“I remember, early on, when Maddie talked about the LPGA, it was, ‘If I ever…’ Every time, I’d stop her—I’d tell her that ‘if’ was not in our vocabulary. You’ve got to make that if a when. When I get to the LPGA,” Woodson said. “I think to make it as a touring pro, you have to believe internally, to the very core of your being, that you can do it; you can win. You just can’t doubt yourself or question your ability. You’ve always got to believe that, with hard work, you’ll get there.”
Part two of that equation is keeping emotions in check—a directive that is sometimes tough for even the most seasoned pros to follow when the stakes are high.
“I was proud of my patience. I didn’t get flustered; I didn’t lose my composure or let my emotions get in the way,” McCrary said. “I had just won my first collegiate tournament in Chicago; so that gave me confidence. Plus, I had Rick on my bag and we were having fun—that made a big difference, too.”
The Girl Next Door with a Warrior’s Heart
One of the things that makes Maddie McCrary so unique, beyond her mad golf skills, is her dichotomy. She looks, and acts, like the classic girl next door; but has the heart—and discipline—of a warrior. She practices, she grinds and she has definitely had her share of the spotlight; yet McCrary is as humble and as likable of a person as you can find.
She has no “quit,” but she also has no diva.
In a sport where young golfers are known for switching coaches they’ve “outgrown,” when they reach a certain level, McCrary and Woodson have been constants. McCrary has nothing but appreciation and loyalty for the man who helped get her to where she is today.
By all accounts, Woodson has reason to earn her trust. He’s constantly working behind the scenes, dissecting her swing videos and TrackMan statistics with the intensity of an NFL coach studying game-day footage. For him, it’s personal.
“I have two daughters, neither of whom play golf, so I never had the chance to do something like this with them—to use my experience to help them get to the LPGA Tour. I’ve had that privilege with Maddie,” he said. “I cried when she signed her scholarship papers. I teared up when she made it through Stage II. I’ve seen how hard she works; how badly she wants this.”
And she’s almost there.
Next Stop: Daytona
For now, Team McCrary is fully focused on preparing for her four-day, Stage III competition, which begins on November 29th at the 36-hole LPGA International in Daytona, Florida.
Finishing in the top 20 at Daytona earns this OU senior an LPGA Tour card for next season. Finishing 21st to 40th means she’ll earn conditional status.
“Since Maddie’s already qualified for the Symetra Tour, a little of the pressure should be off,” Woodson said. “She has a place to play professionally when she graduates, regardless of what happens, and knowing that is a real advantage going in.”
According to Woodson, the right perspective can make all the difference.
“I personally played Q-school nine times. Nine times,” Woodson said. “The minute I started looking at it as an opportunity, and not an end-all and be-all, that’s when I succeeded. I tell Maddie the same thing—you’re already going to play professional golf. Look at Stage III as an opportunity; not a do or die. I think that perspective is going to go a long way to help her perform.”
As for the ever-affable McCrary, she’s proud of how far she’s come, and excited about the possibilities ahead. Her credo is a simple, but powerful one:
“Never give up, no matter what. Trust in your hard work, and that you’re going to get where you want to go,” she said.
See you at the top of the leaderboard, Maddie McCrary. You’re someone worth cheering for.