Sports

Young Everett, older McCarty pace Iowans at John Deere Classic

NCAA champ from West Des Moines shoots 4-under in first PGA Tour round

Paul Miller of Delmar gets an autograph from Solon’s Sean McCarty Thursday at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill. Miller student-taught at West Branch in 1970. McCarty won three individual state-championships at West Branch in the late 1980s and early 1990s. (Mike Hlas/The Gazette)
Paul Miller of Delmar gets an autograph from Solon’s Sean McCarty Thursday at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill. Miller student-taught at West Branch in 1970. McCarty won three individual state-championships at West Branch in the late 1980s and early 1990s. (Mike Hlas/The Gazette)
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SILVIS, Ill. — The low Iowan Thursday at the John Deere Classic was 22-year-old Broc Everett, fresh off the campus of Augusta (Ga.) University after winning the individual title at the NCAA Championships.

The low Hawkeye was Sean McCarty, 45 but playing lately with the zest of a man half his age.

West Des Moines’ Everett shot a 4-under-par 67 in the first round of the JDC at TPC Deere Run, five shots behind 40-year-old journeyman Steve Wheatcroft.

It was Everett’s first round in a PGA Tour event after missing the 36-hole cut four straight weeks on the Mackenzie Tour, the PGA’s Canadian circuit.

McCarty’s first PGA Tour round was in 1997 when this tourney was called the Quad City Classic and was played at Oakwood Country Club in nearby Coal Valley. He carded a 66 that day and was tied for second place at day’s end on his way to a tie for 23rd.

“Time has flown,” 1995 Iowa graduate McCarty said after shooting 68 Thursday. That left him tied for 37th. Which was a lot better than the 82 he totaled on his last first-round here, in 2013. He was in pain that day. He’d suffered a hip injury three weeks earlier and wore a back brace under his shirt.

Another ex-Hawkeye, Vince India, can point to McCarty as inspiration for the back-impaired. Like McCarty, India qualified for the JDC the hard way, by being one of the four players of 86 who advanced into this field via a Monday qualifying tourney. He shot a 70 Thursday.

India, the Big Ten men’s golf Player of the Year and Iowa’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2011 knows back pain. He hurt his back in a December 2016 workout. An MRI showed two bulging disks in his lower back. He turned to stem-cell therapy and says it produced good results.

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“It’s coming around,” India said about his back and his golf game. “I struggled with my back. It starts bleeding over into your golf swing. But my back feels better. ... I have a lot better control of the ball than I’ve had in a long time.”

India, from Deerfield, Ill., has spent most of his pro career on the Web.com Tour, the PGA Tour’s training ground. He has been in 66 Web.com tourneys and has made 32 cuts. This year he’s 1-for-6. His best career finish is a tie for 11th.

He is 29, and this is yet to be glamorous. India Monday-qualified into his first PGA Tour event four months ago, and went on to tie for 50th at that tourney in the Dominican Republic. That earned him $7,305, one of his biggest checks as a pro.

“I just know my potential,” India said. “I tell people I’ll peak at 37 or 38.

“It’s a long road, probably. There’s a saying to embrace the process. It gets old at times. But I keep going and I like to grind. I like getting better."

He also likes being in this tournament.

“It’s fun,” said India. “I always wanted to play here. I’m representing Illinois, but more importantly, the Hawkeyes.”

As for Everett, he was two shots better than the most-accomplished golfer from Iowa, Zach Johnson.

“One of the caddies came up and said ‘Welcome to the PGA Tour,’" Everett said. “I was like ‘Yeah, it’s pretty sweet.’ Good start.”

The 2-under 69 Johnson posted wasn’t up to his typical JDC standards.

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“Considering how (good) I felt going into today,” Johnson said, “it was frustrating.”

McCarty thought his round could have been better, too, but looks forward to playing on greens Friday morning that are fresh instead of the chewed-up variety he encountered with a 2 p.m. tee time Thursday.

Nonetheless, the head pro at Coralville’s Brown Deer Golf Club made birdie putts of 34 feet on No. 16 and 20 feet on No. 17, then had a great par-save from the rough on the final hole.

“He was rolling the ball good all day,” said his caddie and brother, Chad McCarty.

Sean McCarty’s work day began at 6 a.m., at Brown Deer. “I had to get some stuff done,” he said.

His tee time Friday is 8:50 a.m., and Deere Run is where all his work will be. He has a chance to make his first PGA Tour cut in 21 years. Time has indeed flown.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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