Maroons brother-sister duo opens new season today

Maroons brother-sister duo opens new season today

CHAMPAIGN — Justin and Mackenzie McCoy faced a simple prompt Tuesday at the U of I Golf Course in Savoy.

Pick a club — a favorite club — from your respective bags for a siblings photograph.

Mackenzie made her choice first, while Justin went off to change out of a shirt he'd just worn during Champaign Central's golf team tryouts.

Without any brother-sister conference, Justin snagged his own club and approached Mackenzie. That's when he realized they'd both chosen a 4-iron.

Talk about a one-track mind.

The McCoys hope that mentality remains when they kick off the Maroons' golf season today at the Champaign Central Invitational, held at that same U of I Course.

"We motivate each other a lot," said Justin, a junior on coach Mike Osterbur's boys' squad. "Without her, I feel like I wouldn't have some of the motivation to go out and play, just because we've been playing golf together for a long time."

"We're pretty much out here all the time together, especially during the summer," added Mackenzie, a senior for coach Carol ZuHone's girls' program. "He'll try to encourage me and tell me I can always do better."

Both halves of the McCoy clan are coming off strong 2017 seasons on the links.

Justin is the reigning News-Gazette boys' Player of the Year, capturing an individual Class 2A sectional championship — and helping the Maroons to a team title — before serving as a key cog in Central's fifth-place state display.

Mackenzie advanced to her own 2A state showcase as an individual, wrapping up 82nd place.

"Last year, personally, was a great year," Justin said. "As a team, it probably was one of our better years, maybe in school history."

Now, both McCoys will be asked to serve as upperclassman leaders among the Maroons.

Justin watched three of his state-scoring teammates graduate earlier this year, and Mackenzie is working under a first-year coach as the Maroon girls' lone returning state qualifier.

"We've both been able to represent Central well," Mackenzie said, "and we've been able to show the golf team is good."

Both McCoys can remember, in their younger years, squaring off in driving and closest-to-the-pin contests organized by their father. It's moments like those that endure as Justin and Mackenzie have grown.

One particular event sticks out to Justin. At Champaign's Lincolnshire Fields Country Club, the McCoy siblings vied to be first in clearing a water hazard between the par-3 12th hole's tee box and green.

"She was a lot bigger and taller, and she got it over first," said Justin, who hit a growth spurt in the summer before his sophomore year and now has some height on Mackenzie. "That motivated me to get better. It just goes back to, without her it'd be a different ride."

Mackenzie enjoys watching her little brother play as well as he has over the last year-plus, admitting Justin's passion for golf has exceeded her own over time.

"I know his freshman year he went out for tryouts, and he wasn't sure if he was going to make varsity or not," Mackenzie said. "And he went out and shot in like the 70s. We were all really excited for him, and it was cool to watch him achieve something that's been working so hard for."