OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – One year after suffering an injury that forced him to miss his senior year of golf at Lipscomb, Connor McKay completed a long journey of recovery by winning the Tennessee Match Play Championship at Oak Ridge Country Club on Saturday.
McKay, who graduated in the spring with a degree in Marketing, was sidelined after undergoing a labrum hip surgery in 2018 where he couldn’t get around without a wheelchair or crutches for four months and didn’t pick up a golf club until February.
“People don’t understand what I’ve been through over the last year, year and a half. It really means the world to me,” McKay told the Tennessee Golf Association shortly after winning. “A lot of people helped me get here. I had hip surgery, didn’t play for a year, struggled with school, was unable to play for a little bit and then bounced back.”
After running through the bracket, McKay’s final match was against rising Belmont junior Jack Uselton. He took a quick advantage on the first hole, but then lost momentum as Uselton won at holes three and five to put McKay 1-down.
After McKay got it back square with a par at No. 8, the Battle of the Boulevard rivals went back and forth over the next five holes before McKay regained a 1-up advantage with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15. The final three holes were played even as McKay closed out the championship and celebrated with his parents on the 18th green.
McKay earned the 13th seed in bracket play after turning in rounds of 65-73 in qualifying. He opened play on Friday with a 2 & 1 victory over No. 4 Oliver Simonsen of UT Chattanooga before draining a birdie on 18 to claim a 1-up decision in the quarterfinals over 2009 Tennessee Match Play champion Todd Burgan.
In the Final Four, McKay found himself paired up against a familiar face, Nolan Ray.
Ray recently transferred to Lipscomb as a graduate student after spending the last four years competing for the Tennessee Volunteers.
Despite Ray staying at his house during the week, McKay got past his buddy 3 & 2 to advance to the finals.
Ray took the No. 1 seed into the match-play bracket after rewriting the record books in qualifying with rounds of 64 and a 63.
His -17, 127 were both 36-hole records, besting the previous mark of -13, 131 and his -9, 63 was the lowest qualifying round in Tennessee Match Play history.