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Scott McCarron's Golf Legacy

When he graduated in 1988, with a degree in history, McCarron watched a few of his teammates turn pro. He didn't join them: "I was just done with that, ready to move on with my life." His father suggested that he join him in the golf-apparel business, and McCarron did. For four years, he played only occasionally with customers. "I was good at getting clients to come out on the golf course with me and selling shirts and hats."

Then in 1991 he attended, as a spectator, a Senior Tour event. He saw professionals rolling the ball with the long putter. It occasioned one of the greatest epiphanies since Archimedes sloshed water over the rim of his bathtub. McCarron went home to his garage, where he kept his old clubs. Three hours and a few Sierra Nevada Pale Ales later, he had a homemade long putter.

He found that the long putter took away his fear of the greens. Golf became fun again, and he began playing regularly. He reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur that year and turned pro in 1992, but he was not an overnight success. He failed at his first two attempts at Q-school for the PGA Tour. Discouraged, he talked about overhauling his swing. Then a friend told him his swing was already good enough—he needed to overhaul his mental game.

So in 1993, McCarron went to see Dr. Glen Albaugh, a sports psychologist and former golf coach at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. "He had a very graceful, flowing swing, and an unwavering belief he was going to be a PGA Tour player," Albaugh recalls. "He had to learn to trust what he had and to make his practice quality practice."

One of McCarron's problems, Albaugh thought, was that he constantly worked on technique when he practiced—hitting sand wedge after sand wedge, for instance, until he had the shot down. Albaugh recommended that he practice to simulate competition: Hit a driver, then a seven-iron. Shape shots first one way and then another. But never hit the same club the same way twice in a row.

Albaugh turned McCarron on to Golf in the Kingdom, Michael Murphy's 1972 novel about a young American who learns the spiritual values of the game from a mythical Scottish pro named Shivas Irons. And through Albaugh, McCarron and Murphy became friends. McCarron signed up as an advisory board member of the Shivas Irons Society, the group for devotees of Murphy's ideas, and has led seminars trying to relate Murphy's teaching about human potential to his own experience as a pro. He's played night golf with members, hitting glow-balls just for laughs. "It gets you out of the day-to-day grind and back into having fun," he says.

"Scott's a great guy and a magnificent golfer," Murphy says. "His pre-shot routine reminds me of the way practitioners of the martial arts use their rituals to gather energy."

McCarron, in turn, has learned to acknowledge golfing phenomena that he considers beyond the normal. "I played till I was twenty-nine years old without a hole in one, and then I got two in one day at a minitour event," he recalls. "And I knew they were going in. It was just a feeling."

Then, a couple of years ago, he was playing in the CVS Charity Classic in Rhode Island. McCarron came to the seventeenth hole seized by a certainty that he would make a hole in one. Lee Janzen had the honor. He stepped up and made an ace. McCarron teed his ball at the edge of Janzen's divot. "Mine's going in right on top of you," he said. And it did.

"Those holes in one are enough to make me believe that there are some things that can't be explained in golf," McCarron says. "As far as seeing Seamus MacDuff [a character in Murphy's novels] off in the distance when I'm hitting golf shots—no, I don't do that. But you have to be creative to play the game, and you have to be picturing, seeing and feeling. Being in touch with that side of your brain is something you have to do."

With his mind clicking on both sides, McCarron got to the Tour via the 1994 Q-school. In nine seasons, he has won three events and thrice been in the top thirty on the money list.

But those achievements are not his most notable. He has a beautiful wife, Jennifer, who loved him before he was rich and famous. They live in a spacious house in Reno with two daughters, Courtney and Cassidy.

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