PENDLETON — Whitworth University senior and former Pendleton High School standout Reilly Hegarty was among 96 NCAA Division III golfers to be named to their respective all-region teams last week by the Golf Coaches Association of America, and this week was named an honorable mention all-American, earning a spot on the award list as one of the division’s 56 best.
“Being an all-American is definitely something I’ll always be able to draw back on as a great memory, so that’s really awesome,” Hegarty said.
Hegarty was among 14 athletes to make the West Region squad. The 2019 All-Northwest Conference second-team recipient played 10 rounds in the fall before the spring portion of the schedule was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, he was among 29 honorable mention all-Americans, with nine in each of the first-, second- and third-team tiers.
“Obviously, anytime you’re given an award it’s really special,” Hegarty said. “It feels good to be recognized.”
He helped the Pirates in the five two-day tournaments to five top-three finishes, which culminated in October 2019 with a team victory in the Confluence Classic in Walla Walla, Washington.
Individually, Hegarty finished in the top eight in all five tournaments, with his best effort a tie for first at the Lilac Invitational in Liberty Lake, Washington, in early October with a two-day total of 2-under par 138 before dropping a playoff to settle for second.
That tournament saw him card a 5-under 65 in the opening round, the best 18-hole effort by far of any Pirate golfer on the season and a round, he said, that tied the school record.
“I’ll probably look back at college and that will be one of my favorite rounds. It was a combination of everything coming together,” he said. “I felt like I was playing pretty good (early in the season), but I needed to find tune some stuff. That first day, everything came together.
“With the 65, like any sport you have a blackout moment when you are in the zone, not thinking too much.”
All told, Hegarty was 5-over par for the whole season and posted a stroke average of 72.10 in the 10 rounds played.
Hegarty was having the best season of his career before it was cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak, and discussed the growth he had made since he joined Whitworth.
“I’ve been really fortunate and been able to put in the hard work,” he said. “I came on as a freshman as one of the worst people in the program. This year was kind of the culmination of the hard work.”
Whereas he had turned in just one round under par in his first three years at Whitworth — posting a 70 in the final round of the 2019 West Cup — he practically lived under par last fall. Half of his rounds were played under par during the fall — one in each of the five tournaments. In addition to his masterful performance in the opening round of the Lilac Invite — one that saw him card six birdies, including five in a nine-hole stretch — he turned in a 70 to start the season in the first round of the 2019 Collegiate Open and a 70 in the opening round of the NWC Fall Classic. He also had two rounds of 71, each following what ended up being his worst two rounds of the season — a 77 to open the Wildcat Invitational and a 76 in the first round at the Confluence.
“You just go into that next round being a little bit desperate knowing you didn’t put your best foot forward,” he said.
Hegarty pointed to his “mental game” as one of the areas he had seen major improvement during his senior year, saying he went into each tournament with a mindset that he was going to win or at least be in contention. On the course he said his wedge game took another step in the right direction.
“It felt like everything got a lot better,” he said.
Hegarty credits his father and swing coach, Mike Hegarty, and Whitworth head coach Scott Kramer with his on-course success.
“They were a huge part of everything that goes on in my life,” he said.
Reilly Hegarty is weighing the option provided to spring athletes for another season after the spring was canceled due to COVID-19, but said that right now looks unlikely.
“If that doesn’t happen I’m planning on graduating this spring,” he said.
He then plans to try and qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour, a developmental tour of the PGA.