Summer of a lifetime: McCoy readies for golf, marriage

ISU men’s golf senior Nate McCoy qualified for the NCAA Championships from May 29 to June 3, earning the lone individual wild card spot at the NCAA Bowling Green Regional. 

Alex Halsted

For as long as he can remember, he has been aiming for the fairways and hitting long putts. After all, Nate McCoy has been golfing all his life.

“I remember him pretty vividly swinging his little clubs in the backyard,” said Nate’s father, Mike McCoy. “Hitting shots around the backyard.”

Right from the start, Nate gravitated toward golf. It was no coincidence; his father Mike is a 10-time Iowa Player of the Year in the sport.

“Ever since I was crawling on the ground my dad had me around the game,” McCoy said of his father’s involvement. “Pretty much I was born into golf, and as soon as I could stand and hold a club, that’s when I started trying to hit the ball.”

Mike said his son’s swing came to him naturally, adding that his primary role was making sure Nate had the right equipment in his hands.

“I took him to the golf course and the driving range, and he hit balls in the backyard,” Mike said. “All I did was kind of encourage him — he didn’t need a lot of coaching, just a lot of encouragement to keep swinging.”

That encouragement was all Nate needed. Around the age of six he took to the course competitively, and he has been golfing ever since.

“He got me into golf,” McCoy said. “Once I loved it, he kind of always pushed me to get to that next level.”

Now a senior at Iowa State, McCoy has reached his final collegiate tournament, and it comes in the midst of a new chapter in his life.

Reaching for the NCAA Championships

Standing on his final hole at the NCAA Regionals in Bowling Green, Ky., on May 19, Nate came to the realization his Cyclone career could be down to its final shots.

“I told myself, ‘Alright, you’ve got one hole left in your college career maybe, so let’s go out here and just hit a great shot,’” Nate said. “I hit a really good shot; I felt like my best shot in college at the time.”

With one lone individual wild card spot available for a spot at the NCAA Championships, Nate faced off against Ethan Tracy of Arkansas as the third and final round of the weekend neared the end.

Nate swung, and then watched as the ball soared in the air.

A par-4 hole, some 453-feet away, Nate hit the fairway. His second shot landed on the green. With six feet remaining, the senior from West Des Moines sunk his putt to finish with a birdie.

With his day over, Nate waited for Tracy to finish. After the Razorback missed a putt on his final hole, Nate advanced to the NCAA Championships.

“It’s really awesome to know I made it there and now I have one shot left to try and complete that goal of winning the NCAAs,” Nate said. “It’s awesome knowing it came down to that last hole, that last putt.”

Nate, ranked No. 45 in the country by Golfweek, is the first Cyclone to advance to the NCAA Championships since Clay Davis in 1980.

With a stroke average of 71.60, Nate is currently on pace to unseat former ISU golfer Chris Baker, who holds the record with a 71.66 average.

ISU men’s golf coach Andrew Tank said Nate will go down as one of the best Cyclone golfers for more than one reason.

“He’s certainly going to go down as one of the best players in the program’s history,” Tank said. “He’s done a lot to put our program on the map — it’s not just because he shoots low scores, it’s because the way he interacts and treats people.”

A professional career after college

In early May, Nate headed to Canada for the Q-school, a qualifying tournament for the Canadian Tour.

Nate’s father said the tour is known for providing good development.

“Some other friends that we know played on the Canadian Tour and had a good experience,” Mike said. “Some of my friends in the game have suggested that it’s a good developmental tour.”

Out of 156 golfers, only the top 30 would receive a full exemption for the 2012 season. Finishing with a four-round total of 285, McCoy finished the weekend at 3-under, tied for fifth overall.

“I didn’t really treat it any differently than any other event. It’s just pro golf, so you just have to hit fairways and greens and try and make putts,” Nate said of competing at Q-school. “The level of play was a little higher, but you still just treat it the same way.”

With his fifth-place finish, McCoy will be locked into the Canadian Tour this upcoming summer.

Tank said he was impressed with how focused McCoy remained on his collegiate career.

“He stayed really in the present with his college golf,” Tank said. “A lot of times it can be a distraction for a senior — to start thinking ahead and thinking about the next chapter — but Nate has really just focused on getting better and playing well.”

Moving on to the next chapter

When the NCAA Championships come to an end, Nate will head for Canada and the golf it has to offer. The next chapter in Nate’s life has something else to offer too.

On June 16, Nate will get married to former ISU soccer goalkeeper, Ashley Costanzo, making for a busy summer.

“I think it’s going to be a great, fun transition. I’m really looking forward to turning pro, but I’m also really looking forward to getting married,” McCoy said. “I think both of those things together will probably make it one of the most enjoyable times of my life.”

Growing up, Nate’s and Ashley’s parents’ homes were only 1.2 miles apart in West Des Moines. But the two never met until they were both athletes at Iowa State.

In their time at Iowa State, the two were told by fellow athletes that they were a good match. Eventually they started saying, “Hi,” in the weight room and added each other on Facebook.

Ashley, a five-sport athlete growing up, never had much interest in golf.

“I have never been interested in golf until I fell in love with a golfer,” Ashley said. “Golf was kind of the thing that if I wanted to watch on TV, I could watch for five minutes, and then I couldn’t anymore.”

But when Ashley gave the sport a try firsthand, she realized how difficult it was.

“I tried it and realized how hard it was and then I respected the game a lot more,” Ashley said. “It’s so difficult, but they make it look so easy on TV because they hit it straight every time.”

The marriage will now take Ashley to the golf course too, as she becomes Nate’s caddy for the summer tour.

Nate said he wouldn’t want anyone else beside him.

“I trust her out there, I wouldn’t really want anyone else out there caddying for me,” McCoy said. “I’m pretty excited to have her out there, and she’s pretty excited to caddy because we get to travel around Canada.

“It’s going to be like our summer-long honeymoon.”