Few people discover their lifelong passion when they are toddlers; James McHugh is one of the lucky ones.
By Melanie Cane
Few people discover their lifelong passion when they are toddlers; James McHugh is one of the lucky ones. Now 17 and a junior at Rye High School, McHugh says he has loved golf since he picked up his first plastic club. Although he is mostly self-taught and has always been crazy for golf, he only became serious about the sport a few years ago. His natural talent, combined with hard work, has resulted in spectacular tournament play.
McHugh has gone to Sectionals every year since eighth grade, but this is the first time he won. “Winning the Section 1 title felt great and gave me confidence,” McHugh said. In fact, it gave him the confidence he needed to grab his first career MGA title, the 98th MetLife Junior, by defeating rival James Nicholas, whom he also defeated at Sectionals, by a decisive 5 and 4. McHugh’s name will be added to the famous Mandeville Trophy. Of his victory, McHugh said, “I competed against a lot of great players.”
Subsequent to his MetLife win in mid-July, McHugh tied for runner-up in the NY State Junior Championship at Cedar Lake Golf Club in Clayville. McHugh had a chance to tie for first on the 18th, but he missed his attempt for a birdie. He settled for par and a tie for second, one shot behind the winner. “I went in thinking I could win and played well,” McHugh said.
The day before his last big tournament of the summer, McHugh received a new set of clubs for his 17th birthday. He used the new clubs for the first time in his last Met PGA tournament of the summer at Otterkill Country Club. Not only did he win, he finished 3 under par and surpassed his closest opponent by six shots.
Reflecting back on his breakout summer, McHugh said he has worked hard at improving his game over the past two to three years and it has paid off. What makes McHugh’s success even more impressive is that, as a casualty of Rye Golf Club’s greens closing, he did not have anywhere to practice for most of the summer. “I mostly practiced driving against the wall of my building and putting in my living room,” he recalls. “Then I was lucky enough to have friends invite me to play at their clubs, some local pros helped me out, and my dad took me to some public courses.”
The golf phenom, who has already being scouted, plays his next big tournament, the AJGA, the weekend of October 9-11.