Holywood’s Heroes – Carty and McIlroy

photo courtesy of GolfWeek.com

4,395 miles marks the distance Jessica “Jess” Carty traveled to pursue her collegiate golf career from her hometown Holywood, Northern Ireland to Denver, Colorado. Holywood is located outside of Belfast and has a population of just over 12,000 people, including Carty and current PGA and the world’s #3 ranked golfer Rory McIlroy.

Carty and McIlroy were both members of the Holywood Golf Club. Carty, 21, grew up watching McIlroy, 26, during his junior tournaments, “My dad would tell everyone ‘Keep an eye out for this kid, he’s going to become a superstar.’ Not everyone believed him, though,” Carty said. 

Continuing to pursue her passion for the sport, Carty has kept in touch with McIlroy over the years, “He’s such a great guy, I look up to him so much. When you see someone from your hometown that’s dominating in the sport like he is, it gives you that motivation and belief that you can do it as well.”

Carty recalls an act of kindness from McIlroy last year when he competed in Cherry Hills for the BMW Championship, where McIlroy arranged tickets for the entire DU women’s golf team. “He really is such a nice guy [despite his successes], he’s so down to Earth and hasn’t changed,” Carty said.

Carty has been playing golf since she could walk, surrounded by fellow Holywood natives who all adore the sport creating a close-knit community who Carty says, “ either a member of the golf club or they go there quite often.”

Despite most Irish female golfers, when Carty realized she had the ability to continue her career at the next level she focused on that goal, “I always wanted to come over here [the United States] and play golf. A lot of the Irish girls who I know that have the opportunity and talent to play choose to stay at home,” Carty said. “I just wanted to compete at the best level with the best players in the country – and I guess the world since there are so many international players playing at the college level. I’m glad I did, it’s been the best experience.”

Carty discovered Denver by coincidence when she was playing in a tournament for Ireland. She was competing against a Scottish girl who was a sophomore at DU at the time, during the tournament the Scottish girl put Carty in contact with DU’s coaches who then recruited her. Now a junior, she’s majoring in Psychology and has a minor in Sociology. Carty enjoys the diversity among the roster – five of the six players are international, “It’s awesome just thinking we are all from such different places, but we’re all united as a team,” Carty said. 

Last season Carty was named to the First Team All-Summit League. This season, on April 20th, Carty helped DU capture its third consecutive Summit League Championship title and she won her first collegiate tournament with a three-round total of 217 (69-72-76).

“It was awesome, it feels like it has been a long time coming,” Carty said. “I had a couple of good performances earlier in the year which motivated me and gave me a belief that a win might be insight. I’ve played in two Summit League conferences before so I knew what to expect. I set a personal goal for myself going into the week that I wanted to win it. Obviously to get the team win as well, was amazing.”

Carty and the team now await their region placement for the NCAA Tournament which will take place May 5, with the course and location TBD. Going into Regionals and the final stretch of the season, Carty says,”We want to make it to Nationals for sure, it’s in the back of all of our minds. It’s also important not to get too caught up in that and make too much of a big deal of that. We’ve had a couple of good performances giving us some momentum. If we keep doing what we have been doing we’ll reach our goal.”