U.S. MID-AMATEUR
McNamaras Relishing Father-Son Time at U.S. Mid-Am September 23, 2018 | Charlotte, N.C. By Stuart Hall

Paul McNamara III qualified for match play in his first U.S. Mid-Amateur with his dad, Paul, a USGA Rules official, on his bag. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Paul McNamara is a USGA Rules official walking the grounds of this week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Charlotte Country Club.

While no one has yet asked him for a Rules clarification, he’s been offering plenty of advice to his son, Paul McNamara III, but mostly on club selection and green breaks.

Before anyone reaches for the phone to call in a breach of the Rules, understand that the elder McNamara is serving as his son’s caddie.

“I actually hope I don’t have to work this week,” cracked the elder McNamara, a member of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship Committee. That would mean his son advanced through the match-play bracket to Thursday’s 36-hole final.

Playing in his first U.S. Mid-Amateur, McNamara III, or P3 as friends call him, shot a 4-over 146 in stroke play at Charlotte Country Club and stroke-play co-host Carolina Golf  Club to earn the 52nd seed. He plays U.S. Navy pilot Benjamin Hayes, of Jacksonville, Fla., in Monday’s Round of 64. 

“I was so happy when I qualified, because I knew that we would be here together,” said McNamara III, 27, of Dallas, Texas. “He caddied for me in [Web.com] Q-School, when I was on the mini-tours, numerous amateur events growing up. So this is special.”

The elder McNamara is general counsel of Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co., the nation’s third largest semi-trailer manufacturer. While not legal in nature, when McNamara III decided to quit professional golf after a rough 2016 season on PGA Tour China, his father offered some sage advice.

“I [got] reinstated at my dad’s urging,” said McNamara III. “I was burned out and didn’t want to play golf, but he said you’re going to want this when it comes the time you’re ready to qualify for the Mid-Am. I said ‘OK’ and listened to him.”

In December, nearly 15 months after sending in his application, McNamara III was an amateur again. Having started a career in the corporate world, he is somewhat beholden to the demands of his job as senior financial analyst for Stifel.

“Since it’s an entry-level position, I have x-number of days off and there are other considerations, so I allotted X-number of days to golf,” he said, adding that he probably touched his clubs four times during the first six months of the year due to studying for Chartered Financial Analyst certification. “So that basically meant I was only going to do the U.S. Amateur qualifier and the U.S. Mid-Am qualifier. The whole goal, though, was to qualify for here and come together.”

While McNamara III failed to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links in August, he obviously punched his ticket for this championship, one that his father estimates he has officiated about 10 times.

The elder McNamara never had his son’s talent, but enjoyed the game and in the mid-1980s he came across a Decisions [on the Rules of Golf] book. “It was perfectly bound,” McNamara said. “I didn’t know you could buy this thing and I just loved reading it.”

McNamara eventually began working for the local golf associations, and later saw an ad to apply for a USGA committee position. A friend helped him get onto the USGA Mid-Amateur Committee.

His background as a lawyer makes for a seamless transition.

“I think it’s easy to read rules, easy to follow rules, and to see rules as to be carefully constructed as the USGA does to avoid all of the loopholes,” he said. “It’s a very, very well-thought out document. It’s easier to sit down and read it and remember it with the cross references if you have done a lot of work with the law.”

Neither father nor son can recall a time when McNamara III needed to be kept from breaking a rule in advance of a shot.

“Absolutely, he’s a plus,” said McNamara III. “He’s going to keep me from making mistakes that are going to get me penalized. And I never have to call for a Rules official. I just have one on the bag.”

As a ranked junior golfer, McNamara III had a difficult time even keeping his bag through the summer before his senior year at Chadwick High in Palos Verdes, Calif. At the time, he was being recruited by roughly 30 college programs. So McNamara III and his mother, Christine, built campus visitations into his summer playing schedule.

During their Midwest swing, the McNamaras flew into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and then took a regional flight to South Bend, Ind. His clubs never made the transfer.

Then-University of Notre Dame men’s golf coach Jim Kubinski assisted in trying to locate the clubs, but to no avail. The clubs were deemed stolen. McNamara III didn’t want to cancel the trip, because he was there to play in a Western Amateur qualifier, a U.S. Amateur qualifier a day after that and then the Western Amateur, if he qualified.

McNamara III borrowed the clubs of Cody Reisdorf, the assistant club professional at Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course (site of the 2019 U.S. Senior Open), and practiced for two days. He qualified for the Western Amateur as Kubinski looked on and was impressed. McNamara III then turned in a solid Western Amateur performance with the same clubs.

For the second leg of the trip to North Carolina, McNamara III used a set of rental clubs, but ultimately decided to fly home and buy new clubs.

“We told all the coaches who were recruiting me what happened and they said ‘OK,’” said McNamara III. With the new clubs in tow, McNamara went and qualified for a junior event in Northern California, but later that evening those clubs were stolen from the back of his car. “We ended up calling all of the coaches about what happened and at that point it was basically ‘We like you, but we’re going to take someone less risky or stupid or whatever adjective you want to use.’”

Notre Dame was one of three schools that didn’t waver.

“Much later, [Kubinski] would tell me that [the Western Amateur qualifier] was the round when he was convinced that they wanted me,” said McNamara III, who finished that qualifying round with three pars. “I had done it without my clubs, so it was adaptability and tenacity. They had not planned on signing anyone that year, but they signed me.”

McNamara III eventually played three years professionally, but when the game became more dread than fun, he knew the time had arrived to change careers.

The game is fun again. Even more so this week.

“I asked him to qualify for the Mid-Am because I know what a spectacular event it is,” said McNamara. “These are real people with jobs and they really appreciate being here, and I knew he would enjoy the experience.”

McNamara III has, especially with dad on the bag.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA digital channels.

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