The Iowa Golf Association gave Mike McCoy and Zach Johnson an opportunity to chase their dreams. Now they’re returning the favor.
Both McCoy, the 2023 Walker Cup captain, and Johnson, the 2023 Ryder Cup captain, have made six-figure donations to Golf House Iowa. The facility, being built next to Echo Valley Country Club in Norwalk, will also be home to the Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association, First Tee – Central Iowa and other IGA initiatives, such as the Youth on Course program. The Iowa Golf Hall of Fame and Museum will be housed there as well. Golf House Iowa is expected to open next spring. A $5 million fundraising campaign is nearing the finish line.
“I did it for two reasons,” McCoy said of his donation. “One, I attribute a lot of good things that have happened in my life to Iowa golf. Just the friends I’ve made, the memories I’ve made, and the doors it’s opened for me. I felt like I owed something. It was a way for me to give back for all the good things that have happened to me.”
Johnson fondly recalls cutting his golfing teeth playing the deep and competitive amateur schedule that is an Iowa tradition.
“I don’t know what it’s like in other states, but we were extremely fortunate,” Johnson said. ”The circuit was amazing. The beauty of it is you’ve got great competition on good golf courses, which is No. 1. That’s what you want, to play and compete. Whether you’re talking about the Iowa Amateur, or the Carroll Amateur, or the Iowa Open, the Waterloo Open, the Sani, which is one of my favorites, whatever it might be.”
Johnson thinks back fondly to his days as an amateur, trying to get better. He remembers the camaraderie with fellow players at every tournament, whether they were helping each other on the range, competing in putting contests or grabbing a bite to eat.
“It was a nomadic little mini-tour,” Johnson said. “I loved it. Most of us would get drummed by Gene Elliott and Mike McCoy. That was pretty par for the course.”
When Johnson speaks at his annual foundation event in Cedar Rapids, he’s reminded again of his golfing past.
Johnson was 10 years old when he got started in Larry Gladson’s junior program at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids. When he turned professional, many of his sponsors were Elmcrest members.
“These were the individuals that gave me everything to pursue one of my dreams,” he said.
“But you also had to have an outlet to go and compete as an amateur. They go hand in hand. You can’t do it alone.”
Like McCoy, Johnson views his donation as a way of giving back.
“Then you couple that with the youth in the game, which is what Golf House Iowa is about and something I have a massive affinity for,” Johnson added. “And the golf course superintendents, I just love them. I love how these guys work. There’s more than one entity going into that building. But the beauty is it’s called Golf House Iowa. Because it takes more than one entity to make golf great in the state. And I think that’s awesome.”
McCoy has traveled the country, both as an insurance executive and a golfer. He appreciates where he comes from. And he sees Golf House Iowa as an important step in moving the game forward.
“It’s just going to put Iowa golf on more solid footing,” McCoy said.