For college golfers in the Northeast, outdoor practice is not an option during winters.
But that’s not the case for sophomore Liam McGrath and his younger brother Conor, who is a high school senior at Academy of the New Church in Montgomery County and will join the team next season.
For “as long as they can remember,” Liam McGrath said, he and his brother have spent their winter breaks with family in Florida, where they are members of Grand Harbor Golf Club in Vero Beach. Their grandparents also have a membership at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach.
“I didn’t really get into golf until I was 13,” Liam McGrath said. “Ever since then, whether it be Christmas or spring break, we would be out there practicing as much as we can.”
The brothers split their time between the two clubs in the winter, but they also take time to relax. When the brothers are not on the range, they spend their time either fishing or shooting skeet.
“One of the best things about our stay is that golf isn’t 24/7,” Conor McGrath said. “Our parents never forced us to practice growing up, and that allowed us to fall in love with the game.”
The brothers’ schedules vary, but on golf-heavy days they tend to stick to a routine.
This consists of an early-morning round with the family, lunch and then a few hours on the range if needed.
Liam McGrath is in his first season as a member of Temple’s golf team after transferring from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
He made two starts in Fall 2017, including when he tied for 26th at the Georgetown Intercollegiate on Oct. 16 and 17 with rounds of 76, 75 and 78. He also tied for 99th at the Stockton Pacific Invite from Oct. 26-28 with scores of 76, 79 and 76. Liam McGrath found himself disappointed with his start.
“My mistakes were just too big, and that stems from immaturity,” he said. “I need to just take a step back when I am playing and gain as much experience as I can get. My swing is very tempo-based, and I worked a ton on that during the break.”
Conor McGrath, who signed his National Letter of Intent to Temple in November, relaxed during his trip to Florida after a summer and fall spent building a strong golf resume.
“This year I definitely started to ramp things up as the collegiate golf search began,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, Florida is a huge part, but competing home at Huntingdon Valley [Country Club] was where it all began.”
Senior kinesiology major Matt Beck has been friends with the McGrath brothers since 2015. He was along for the ride in many of Conor McGrath’s strong finishes at home.
Beck, in his fifth year as a caddie at Huntingdon Valley Country Club, has been on the bag for both brothers at tournaments in the Delaware Valley.
Beck was Conor McGrath’s caddie at the 103rd Junior Boys Championship Qualifier in June. Conor McGrath shot a 6-under-par 66, good enough for the tournament’s No. 2 seed. He attributes much of his success in bringing home the 2017 Huntingdon Valley Club championship to Beck’s guidance.
“He’s always over our house and is one of our best friends,” Conor McGrath said. “We were such good friends, and it showed on the course. There was no chance I would be able to go as far as I did without him.”
“There’s a special bond that’s formed when you go out and compete,” Beck said. “Four hours together, you can learn a lot about each other.”
Though Beck couldn’t attend this year, the McGrath brothers bonded on their trip, which encouraged Liam McGrath to “keep grinding along” and to “try to become the smartest player” he can, he said.
“Having Liam as a brother and a competitor all of my life has really pushed me to be better,” Conor McGrath said. “We are best friends and, at the end of the day, we are brothers. Family is everything, and spending breaks in Florida together has helped us grow as people and ultimately golfers.”