McClear’s improved mind, body paying dividends on the course

Sophomore Mac McClear claimed his second individual title of the season last Sunday at the Big Ten Championships.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa’s Mac McClear watches other players on the green during the men’s golf Hawkeye Invitational on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at Finkbine Golf Course.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

Last year, Mac McClear ranked fourth on the Iowa men’s golf team in stroke average, taking just under 76 shots per 18-hole round.

The Hinsdale, Illinois, native played in just four of the Hawkeyes’ six tournaments as a freshman in 2019-20.

Last Sunday, McClear claimed his first-ever individual Big Ten title — increasing the number of solo championships he’s won this year to two.

McClear’s Big Ten Championship victory dropped his scoring average to 71.6 on the 2020-21 season — more than four strokes better than his 2019-20 average.

McClear has played 10 of his 18 stroke-play tournament rounds at even-par or better.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan, McClear said he fixed some mechanical things in his swing after a lesson last summer with former Hawkeye assistant golf coach Jeff Schmid. After that, McClear began to reap the benefits of the swing changes he made, finding success in some offseason tournaments.

Before he returned to Iowa City for the school year, McClear finished the Illinois Open in a tie for ninth place overall and a tie for second among amateurs.

McClear has continued to improve this spring, competing mostly in collegiate competitions. McClear believes the key to his success has been his mental approach.

“My coach said, kind of early in the season, he said, ‘If you can go into a golf round, and you’re mentally prepared and you’re making good decisions, picking out the right clubs, right lines, you can, basically, you could beat half the field,’” McClear said. “Basically, just by not being stupid, you can beat half the field. And that’s what I’ve tried to do. I’m just trying to control the things I can control. If I happen to hit some good shots along the way, it’s going to produce some pretty good results. And then when the swing’s not there, I’m still not going to make, you know, a ton of mistakes, so I’ll still beat a lot of people.”

McClear’s confidence and love for golf convinced Hawkeye head coach Tyler Stith to recruit McClear to Iowa out of high school. According to Stith, those characteristics, coupled with the swing improvements McClear has made, enabled McClear to become this year’s Big Ten Champion.

“He’s always had something special,” Stith said. “His confidence, just a self-belief, that’s always been there. But it’s hard to be able to show that when you don’t know where the ball’s going. So, he made some changes. He worked at it tirelessly over the last year. His level of just commitment to golf, and to training is just second to none.”

RELATED: Iowa men’s golf finishes second at Big Ten Championships, crowns McClear as individual medalist

Stith said McClear’s commitment to bulking up physically in the gym has also paid dividends.

“I hear stories about Luka Garza, talking to [strength and conditioning coach Bill Maxwell] and [head basketball coach Fran McCaffrey] and his teammates how he just outworked everyone, and I just can’t help but think that Mac is kind of in that same mold,” Stith said. “We typically get up in the morning and train as a team before we go to the golf course but with [the early] tee times, we kind of let the guys warm up on their own once they get to the course. But Mac, Saturday and Sunday, he’s up at 6:30 in the morning working out in the hotel gym before he goes to the golf course and then he warms up again.”

Iowa men’s golf now faces a two-week break before it begins NCAA Regional play May 17-19. Should the Hawkeyes advance out of the NCAA Regional round, they’d play for a national championship in Scottsdale, Arizona, May 2 to June 2.

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