Coralville | Inducted 2019 | Category: Professional golfer

Sean McCarty was playing in the State Pee Wee Golf Tournament around the time he was 10 or 11 years old. Someone asked him who was the most famous person to come out of his home town of West Branch.

McCarty said Dave Rummells, 14 years older than he was with a golf game that Sean wanted to match. Forget the fact that West Branch is also the home of Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States.

McCarty had looked up to Rummells, his fellow Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member, for years. They both learned to play on the nine-hole Greenview course that was owned by McCarty’s parents. Sean, who got his first set of golf clubs when he was 3, started playing golf cross-handed. When he was 6 years old, Rummells told him, “You can’t play like that.”

So McCarty went to a conventional grip and was off and running. He quickly earned a reputation as a big hitter. When he was 7 and playing in the State Pee Wee at Grinnell, host pro and tournament director Larry Crawford told Sean he could hit his tee shot off No. 1.

“I said, “No, they’re on the green,” McCarty recalled. “He said, “You can’t get there.’ So I hit it. It went over the green. He said, “Geez, do you know how far you hit that?” I was kind of blessed. I always had the length, even at a young age.”

McCarty won three state high school individual titles and helped his West Branch team capture three team titles as well.

Sean was the Big Ten’s freshman of the year in 1992 and helped Iowa win its first conference title ever. A four-time letterman for the Hawkeyes, he won four individual titles during his college career. McCarty was also the Iowa Golf Association player of the year in 1995.

Sean, now the Director of Golf at Brown Deer in Coralville, continued to win at an impressive pace after he turned professional. He was the Iowa PGA Section Player of Year an unprecedented 11 times between 2009 and 2022. And he joins Jerry Smith as the only players to be named both the Iowa Golf Association and Iowa PGA Section player of the year over the course of their careers.

McCarty has won both the Iowa Open and the Sani Invitational four times. The first of those eight collective titles came in 1997, the last in 2016. He’s also qualified for a U.S. Open and two PGA Championships. At the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive, Sean, then 45, registered the fastest clubhead speed. Sean was the first golfer inducted into the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame, in 2016.

“One of the things that sticks out about McCarty to his peers is how humble he is about his golf talents.

“Sean’s talent on the course is only surpassed by his level of humbleness off it,” Brown Deer PGA pro Brian Wernimont said. “Working side by side with him, he has never once boasted about his playing abilities and, in fact, downplays how good he truly is. He is a true champion that lets his play on the course speak for him.”

Prominent amateur golfer Jon Olson said, “Since I have been competing, Sean is the best player I have played with in Iowa. What impresses me the most is how he carries himself on and off the course. He is always calm and collected. He makes everything look easy, but there is no ego, no boasting or cocky attitude. Instead, he is true to what matters most to him – simply working hard and loving the game.”

Career Highlights

  • Three-time Iowa High School State Individual Champion, led West Branch to three Iowa High School State Team Championships.
  • Four-year letter winner at the University of Iowa, would win four individual collegiate titles and help Iowa to eight team titles during his career.
  • In 2016 he became the first golfer inducted into the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame.
  • In 1995 McCarty earned the Iowa Golf Association Player of the Year award.
  • He was named as an All-American by the NCAA in 1995.
  • He has earned Iowa Section Player of the Year honors ten times.
  • Has qualified for three major championships in his career – the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields CC in Chicago, the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive CC in St. Louis and the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa.
  • He has won four Iowa Opens (1997, 2005, ‘08, ‘13).
  • He has won four Herman Sani Tournaments four times (2007, ‘08, ‘10, ‘16).
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