By: By Craig DeVrieze, Quad-City Times
A father-and-son tale will make way for another poignant family story next week at the John Deere Classic.
After winning the Iowa PGA Section Championship in August, former Crow Valley head professional Curt Schnell was scheduled to tee it up in the same JDC field as his son, Brady.
He recently withdrew, however, in favor of a second chance to caddie at TPC Deere Run for his son, who will be playing on a second straight sponsor’s exemption.
“Last year was a special time,’’ the elder Schnell said of walking alongside Brady as he played his way to a tie for 57th in his professional debut. “I certainly would never expect to replicate it, but hopefully we can create a new memory.’’
Curt Schnell’s place in the field will be taken by Sean McCarty, the long-hitting former West Branch, Iowa, prep who finished second in the Section championship event last year.
In 1997, McCarty made memories for his parents, Mike and Mary, when he led the Quad-City tournament after a round at Oakwood Country Club in Coal Valley, Ill.
Next week, though, McCarty will be playing in the memory of his parents.
His mother died in December after a long bout with ovarian cancer. Then, on May 19, his father died of a heart attack on the seventh tee at Fox Run Golf Course in West Branch, the nine-hole course Mike and Mary McCarty operated for decades as Greenview Country Club.
“He was where he wanted to be,’’ Sean McCarty said of his father. “He was having a good round and beating his friend in the league.’’
Losing both parents at the age of 65 clearly has made for a difficult year for McCarty, now head professional at Brown Deer Golf Course in Iowa City and a 35-year-old father of four.
“It has pretty much sucked,’’ he said. “That’s how I would put it.’’
Curt Schnell said he is pleased his decision not to play next week creates an opportunity for McCarty.
“It was a nice gift to get with everything that has been going on,’’ McCarty said of the opportunity to make his fourth JDC start.
McCarty played Deere Run in 2003 and returned to Oakwood in 1998. He made the cut in 1997, but he made a sensational run that week, when, in his first PGA Tour start, he led after a round and trailed by two heading into the weekend. He ultimately finished tied for 23rd.
Mike and Mary McCarty joined almost the full town of West Branch in following their son around Oakwood, and Sean said that week remained a wonderful memory for his folks through the years.
“They were high as a kite,’’ he said. “They enjoyed watching as much as I enjoyed playing.’’
Curt Schnell can relate. He said his experience caddying for Brady, now 23, a year ago was the time of his life. He could not imagine missing out on a second opportunity this year.
The elder Schnell, 49 and eying at run at the Champions Tour, said he didn’t take for granted the chance to play in a PGA Tour event but also noted this would have been his eighth JDC start.
“If I had never played in the event, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,’’ he said. “Playing in a Tour event is special, but I have done that.’’
Brady Schnell has played in three Adams Tour events this summer and cashed a check in all three, including a fifth-place finish in Baton Rouge, La.
He said his game is in good shape and his confidence is high as he readies for his return to Deere Run.
Having his father as his caddie can’t hurt.
“There is no one else I’d rather have,’’ he said. “At first I thought he was crazy. But it’s one of those things where a father wants to be with his son. He just thought it would be a better week.’’