Already in his third season as South Side's No. 1 golfer, junior Ryan McCarthy has reached new heights in 2015.
McCarthy has established himself as one of Long Island's top golfers, averaging a conference-best 0.8 strokes over par for the season, while setting the school record for lowest round, according to coach Russ Reid.
"It's been an exciting season," McCarthy said. "I've been playing well, working on my game a lot. I've been driving the ball and working on my putting."
"He's not only a golfer, he's a natural athlete," Reid said. "And he's competitive. He's an even-keeled, funny kid, but when you really get into competitive situations, he can be tough to beat."
Case in point: Sept. 29, when McCarthy shot a 4-under 32 on the front nine at Hempstead Country Club, setting a school record.
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McCarthy began by eagling the par-4 first hole, and did not let up, playing 2 under for the remainder of the round.
"After the first hole, I thought I could turn the round into something special," McCarthy said. "I just wanted to get more birdies."
The round was the latest on a long list of his big days, which also includes the second day of the 2014 state tournament at Cornell University, where he shot a 1-over 72, better than all but two golfers in the 99-player field.
Reid called that day "a defining moment" in McCarthy's career, but not only because of the low score. He also said his Day 2 highlighted McCarthy's strengths because of his Day 1 performance, when he was 10 over to tie for 42nd.
"He never lets a bad round affect his next round," Reid said.
Perhaps this is not surprising, given the mental aspect to the game is what drew McCarthy to it in the first place.
"I started golfing around the age of 10, and ever since I've been hooked on it," said McCarthy, who added he is attracted to the game because of "the individuality of it, and the fact you can go out and rely on yourself, and the only way to get better is hard work and practice."
McCarthy won his first junior Metropolitan PGA event as a 13-year-old, and made the South Side varsity team as a seventh-grader. On his first two seasons as a varsity player, he was South Side's No. 2 player, before slotting into the top spot as a freshman.
"It was cool realizing coach had the faith in me to represent the team," McCarthy said.
South Side's record has improved in each of its three years with McCarthy leading the way, including an 8-2 finish this season. The Cyclones finished second to Garden City, but beat their rivals for the first time since 2012 in October, when McCarthy shot a 1-under 35 at Hempstead.
Reid says the best may still be yet to come for his top golfer, as McCarthy will seek both a county championship and another trip to the state tournament in the spring.
"I think he's certainly going to be one of the top finishers," Reid said, "and is going to be one of the best in the county if not the best."