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Golf champ more than keeps up with the boys

Mary Mulcahy, 16, of Scituate, takes a few swings at the Hatherly Golf Club course behind her house. Mary Mulcahy, 16, of Scituate, takes a few swings at the Hatherly Golf Club course behind her house. (Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
By Patrick McHugh
Globe Correspondent / October 10, 2010

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Mary Mulcahy may have raised a few eyebrows in her first high school golf match as a freshman at Scituate High. She was the lone female on an all-male team.

Two years later, she has continued to attract attention, not because of her gender, but her sterling play. The 16-year-old Mulcahy is the No. 1 golfer on the 12-player Scituate squad and has already earned a number of impressive individual accolades.

In May, she won the MIAA State Individual Girls title, shooting a 5-over par 77 at the Woodland Golf Club in Newton. In August, she reached the round of 16 in the WGAM Amateur Championship & Presidents’ Cup at Charles River Country Club in Newton, a tournament that included 98 entrants. A two-time Globe All-Scholastic, she has also helped lead Scituate to a 5-7 record this fall and stay in contention in the Patriot League.

“Mary is a really good golfer,’’ said Hanover senior Matt Montt, who also won a state individual title as a sophomore. “It’s fun to play against her because if you want to beat her you have to raise your game. She’s one of the best in the state.’’

Mulcahy was seemingly destined to swing a club from birth. Growing up with Hatherly Country Club a mere chip shot away from her house, she learned the game from her father, John.

“Whenever I was little I would always just go out with my dad at night and go to the course,’’ Mulcahy said. “I’ve been playing since I was old enough to swing a club.’’

Scituate coach Gerry Chisholm, who has played against both Mulcahy’s father, and grandfather, John Sr. (“Biff’’), first witnessed her promise as an eighth-grader.

“I saw her swinging the golf club and I looked twice,’’ said the fourth-year coach, who played in high school (Boston College High) and college (Fairfield). “I thought, ‘Wow. There’s a young lady with a golf swing.’ ’’

The folks at Hatherly CC also took notice, when the freshman-to-be became the fourth generation of the Mulcahy family to win a club championship at the course, following her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Charles. She has held the women’s club championship the past three years.

Mulcahy said what allows her to keep up with the boys is her ability to drive the ball far off the tee, which is often the biggest difference between a male and female. She said a concerted effort to improve her short game over the last year has made her a better player as well.

Her coach believes that while her skills are impressive, the strongest part of her game is not physical.

“I think her best asset is her mental ability to be able to control her emotions on the golf course,’’ Chisholm said. “To be able to manage her golf game and know when to try and hit it hard or when to lay up. She has the mental ability to manage her golf game very well for a kid her age.’’

Perhaps her best work at managing her game came in May, at the MIAA girls’ championship, less than 10 weeks after she had undergone knee surgery to repair a tear in her meniscus. She was competing in just her second tournament since surgery, but Mulcahy was five strokes better than the rest of the field.

“At the time it really didn’t sink in,’’ Mulcahy said of her win. “I think it’s taken until probably around now to actually sink in. I’ve always played golf my entire life. To have that accomplishment next to my name is something that I’ve always looked to have.’’

And in victory, Mulcahy displayed exceptional sportsmanship. Chisholm recalled how Mulcahy stopped a competitor from clearing a bunker, which would have necessitated a two-stroke penalty. She cleared the bunker herself instead.

“It’s examples like that which show why she was voted the Patriot League’s Sportsmanship Award,’’ Chisholm said. “Think about that: She’s playing with a bunch of boys and she’s beating them and she’s still voted to have the best sportsmanship in the league. That speaks volumes about her as a person.’’

Though she has another year of high school ahead, Mulcahy said she is already eyeing playing in college, most likely at a school in the South. She said that she hopes to finalize her commitments by this time next year. Her top choice is the University of South Carolina.

For now Mulcahy is focused on finishing up the fall season with her teammates. Chisholm said her presence makes his other golfers strive to improve, something the coach believes is in her nature.

“I think she just wants to continue to get better,’’ he said. “She doesn’t see herself as being as good as she’s going to be. She sees herself as wanting to get better, and I see her willing to devote her time to that process.’’

Patrick McHugh can be reached at pmchugh@globe.com.