He didn’t appear on the Tonight Show at the age of 6, but Mac McLaughlin has done many things with a golf club that people outside of Tiger Woods likely cannot even comprehend.
Most recently that included shooting a 66 on Ohio State University’s Gray Course in the second round of Ohio’s Division II state high school golf tournament. That score lifted McLaughlin to individual state medalist honors and propelled Hunting Valley University School to its second consecutive team championship and third in five years.
His accomplishments this season are why McLaughlin is the Huntington Bank/Ohio High Player of the Year in boys golf.
His level of accomplishment on the course is why this will not likely be the last we’ve heard of the Preppers’ junior star.
Much like Woods, McLaughlin’s story begins as a 2-year-old prodigy. He was given a toy club and fell in love with it. Soon thereafter, McLaughlin’s dad cut a putter down to fit the youngster. The family built a putting green at his grandparents’ house, giving him a place to practice. Taking lessons from his dad, McLaughlin quickly developed a passion for the game.
“I just kind of picked it up and progressed,” he says. “I wasn’t one of those Tiger Woods guys, who had a perfect swing at age 4. I had a good swing. I could hit the ball and my putting was always pretty good. My love for the game started then.”
By the age of 6 or so (he’s not quite sure), McLaughlin got his first birdie on a full-sized hole.
Hitting driver, 3-wood, he found himself on the green of a course in Florida. Faced with a 30-foot putt, he did what any good first- or second-grader would do and drained it.
“It was downhill and broke crazy to the left,” recalls McLaughlin, who was a sixth-grader when he got the first of his four holes-in-one. “I still remember that putt.”
He’s provided plenty of memories for the Preppers. He shot 71-66 to win by two strokes over Mike Oberschmidt of Cincinnati McNicholas at the state tournament.
McLaughlin’s play led University School to a two-day total of 580 to win by 13 strokes over Dayton Chaminade-Julienne. The Preppers rallied from 10 shots down after the first day.
It capped a year in which McLaughlin averaged 72.2 shots per 18 holes. He was 11-over-par for the entire high school season. He was medalist at seven invitationals, as well as at sectional play.
“He has matured enormously as an athlete,” says University School coach Bill O’Neil. “He’s also a swimmer. A lot of fitness and mental toughness has come from that. All the sides of his game are really strong. He has an excellent short game and he’s a great putter.”
As a swimmer, McLaughlin is a novice. In addition to conditioning, he gets an appreciation for how the other half lives on the golf course. Not everything comes easy for him in the pool.
He’s a high-B student in an advanced-placement courses at one of the most academically challenging schools in the state. They’re not called the Preppers for nothing.
McLaughlin hopes golf can lead him to a similar environment after high school – if not much farther.
“It would be great to become a professional,” he says. “I love this game and I’d like to do it for the rest of my life. My goal is to let this game take me as far as I’m able to go. I’m going to get as good as I can. If that means professional, I’d love to. I’d like it to be my life.”
It’s his life to a degree now.
When it’s not swim season, McLaughlin is working on his game. It doesn’t allow for a lot of free time. Or, it allows for nothing but.
McLaughlin works hard at his game, but doesn’t consider it work. His vocation is vacation.
“People are always asking me that: ‘Do you have any free time to just to relax?’ ” he said. “I just tell them, ‘I’m going to my free time right now,’ when I’m going to practice. That’s what I really enjoy doing.”