John E McCray 2014 Disc golf Tour.
About 15 years ago I had the pleasure of playing a round of disc golf with John E McCray, in Daytona Beach Florida. For those of you who do not know John E or haven’t seen him play, it doesn’t take long to understand a few things about John, You get what you see as he can’t hide his intensity or passion for the sport of disc golf.
He’s the kind of guy that will help show a new player around the course or the next up and coming pro in his area by practicing/training with him, teaching him what he knows, giving him a ride to the league or tourney. John is relentless in his training and know how to separate it from playing casual or playing in an event, so when he gets to the course on game day the gloves comes off and the game is on until the last putt is thrown. He won’t root against your shots during the round ( he doesn’t have to) but he won’t let up when he’s up by ten either. This is my type of guy, he’s the same kind of player I used to be and why our relationship is so good and has lasted so long.
I had heard of this guy before, he’s the guy that gives Ken Climo and every other opponent something to think about when t hey see his name on the list of those registered.
He’s the type of guy that brings it (his skills and determination) from the first hole to the last, every time he laces em up and does so with a huge smile on his face. Don’t take it personal, he’s playing he course and never letting up. He doesn’t know how to put in the second team when he’s up by ten with three to go,, it’s not in his DNA. He’s looking for course records every time he plays..
I use the term laces em up, because John is a soccer player at heart. From the moment I met him I knew this guy,,,, it was like looking in a mirror. It was so apperant for me to see this guy was one of those soccer players I grew up playing with and against from the age of 5-20.
During those 15 years of playing soccer and other team sports, I went to war with my teammates time and time again. I always gave it everything I had, I tried my my hardest because I didn’t want to let the team down. I learned early in life how to play as a team but also how motivate myself and the team to get what we wanted and I wasn’t afraid of failure. At 7 or 8 years old all I thought about and wanted was to win games with my team.
What I developed through the game of soccer and from my soccer coaches was the same thing john developed, it’s to accomplish what you set out to do,,,, your goal ( both literally and figuratively). Not one soccer game, league or tournament I ever played in did I NOT go into thinking about winning. It’s why we were there, why we signed up, what we had trained for, went to sleep thinking about and woke up thinking about.
If you didn’t grow up playing a sport like soccer with the kids from your neighborhood and parish, (in cities like Tampa or St Louis, where soccer moms get into fist fights) you might not understand this, over the top attitude about winning. From that first encounter in Daytona playing with John E, until my recent trip this winter to Florida, I can assure you one thing, John E McCray knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
Theres a big difference between playing on a team and playing for yourself, is the outcome is all on your shoulders, you get all the glory but you also need to take the defeats. I just heard a guy on the TV say this about golf in reference to Rory’s meltdown yesterday ” if you don’t own the defeat you cannot fully embrace the victory”. Transitioning for some from team sports to individual sports can be difficult, but for guys like John and I, we like that kind of pressure, it drives us to train harder and to be more prepared then your opponent.
Last fall when I heard John E was going on tour this year, I knew what that meant. It meant, every event that John E entered into, that John E would have to be beat. John E rarely beats himself and regardless of how many strokes he may be down, “HE” never thinks he’s out of It. If theres a mathematical chance for John E to still win, then theres a good chance he might. Along with ken Climo, Dave Greenwell and Nikko, he’s one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever met in the sport and probably why ken Climo started traveling so much in the mid 90’s. ( just kidding ken)! Actually John E has a lot of respect for the champ, and often gives Ken MOST of the credit for driving him to be the best he can be. Imagine having to go head to head with Ken Climo when you first start playing and then twenty times a year every year! I was at Kens house back in 1999 playing cards the him and the Winnie crew, Ken sat out every ten or so hands and went outside in his yard, in the dark with just a porch light and threw 30 or so putts at a time every 30 minutes all night long. Having someone like Ken to play with and against when John started back in December 1995 certainly shaped him and his game and fit right into that mold of a soccer players mentality. In order or be the best you have to beat the best!!!
Johns first victory against Ken came at water tower park in Sarasota Florida after about 25 or so head to head events. John was down 6 going into a Sunday round and came out blazing, shooting a course record -13 and then followed it with a -12 and Wound up beating them Champ by 6. Quite the the feather in the cap that day for John and I can only imagine what Ken must have thought. Up until then not many players had really challenged the champ especially not in his home state of Florida.
This past weekend John E played in the Memorial Championships n Phoenix AZ. His 49 was tied for first after round one and going into the last was just a few shots back.
With a very strong field of competitors John wound up in second place and snagged himself a nice healthy paycheck of $3,000.00
While John E performance this past week came up a few strokes short of a PDGA NT win at the Memorial championships in Phoenix Arizona, John certainly set the stage for his ” it’s about time tour” !
So far this year John has already played in 6 Events and has finished 1st in 5 of the 6:
1st at Throw Down the mountain II in Brooksville FL =$800.00
1st at SW Florida Open in Port Charlotte =$432.00
1st at Barnett Park Ppen in Orlando FL = $600.00
1st at Cedar Hill Chill in Cedar Hill TX $600.00
1st at Towne Lake Pro-Am in = $500.00
2nd at the Memorial in Phoenix AZ = $3,000.00
Anyone that has ever played with John or saw him play for the first time this past week, can’t help but want to watch him play again. John E is a power player that can throw a demon 400 feet and his Wizards just as far. He rarely lays up from the tee or when putting. His confidence it making the comeback putt is off the chart. He throws shots exactly like you should, with the thought process that the results will match the intention. If he misses, there will be no cursing, no stomping, no crushing the mini or throwing his disc in the bag. He simply steps up to his next shot with the same. Determination and confidence he had with the last throw. He’s truly playing the course and wants to go low, REALLY low every time!
John E has been throwing exclusively Gateway discs for the last ten years. During this time John has been ranked in the top ten for the majority of it, has won nearly 80% of the events he’s entered. in the bag with John E McCray
John and was within a throw or two of 1st place at the PDGA pro worlds in Augusta GA in 2006 going into the semi final round. Unfortunately for John, there was a miscommunication about the start time on the final day. I got a call about 7:00 central ( (8:00 eastern) from Mike Barnett. “Hey Dave, where’s Johnny? The semi final rounds getting ready to start and he’s not here!” I quickly hung up the phone and called John E’s number, he answered on the first ring.
David: ” hey john what’s going on? ”
John: I’m sitting here eating breakfast getting ready to win the world championships!
David: Well Sunking just called and said the rounds getting ready to start.
John: no It starts at 9 like all the other rounds.
David: not sure who told you that but Mike said they already blew the two minute warning.
John: (after about 4 seconds of silence , he said) thanks, I gotta go!
I washed him luck and hung up the phone.
John raced to the course and eventually started the round, but not after missing 2 holes and taking quadruple bogey on each for being late.
He’s started the most important round of his career 8 over par.
Did this discourage John?
Would he have a melt down and fall a part?
Well what happened was that JohnE, without a single practice shot on the day, proceeded to birdie 11 of the next 12 holes and eventually, when the round was done shot a 54 5 under par and kept himself in the top 8.
John went on to place T7 with Steve Rico that year, which I’m sure was a huge let down after being so close.
A few years later john he fell Ill with Lyme disease, but not before he was mis-diagnosed with gout and was put on a special diet that wasn’t very good for the Lyme disease. The improper diagnosis put him in the hospital and he nearly died. It took John E over a year to fully recover.
Did john learn a lesson from all of this?
Were these the type of life altering experiences , a fork in the rd that could break his spirits about life or the game of disc golf?
Of course not, John is not a quitter, he exemplifies the phrase of ” whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!
The moral of these two stories is about not giving up after adversary or set backs, and is just part of part of the story of John E McCray and what’s makes him the man that he is today.
I’ve never heard him complain about what happened the day he was late day or lay blame on anyone else. He excepted the mistake as his own, put his head down and did the best he could, shot after shot, until the final shot was thrown just like he always does!
It took a while, but John overcame his illness with the support of his wife friends and family and eventually regained his strength to compete and perform at the highest level.
I know john loves the sports deep down and would play disc golf even if there were no trophies or prize money. He plays disc golf to beat the course’ to break course records and to challenge himself, but it’s also how he supports his family. If you asked him he would tell you he plays for his fans, his home state of Florida, for Gateway Disc Sports, for the future of our sport and of course for the love of the game.
JohnE is disc golf competitions poster boy!!
On the course, he’s the professional that is expected of him. Off the course he’s a husband, a father, a disc golf promoter/coach and someone (that as a parent), you’re more than comfortable with your son or daughter idolizing as their role model. Even if your a Discraft guy or an Innova guy or have a brand new company you support with your disc choices, you can’t help but finding your self rooting for john E!
Johns loyalty to me and Gateway Disc Sports is unheralded. I am so proud to have John E represent our brand, he is a extension of myself and day in and day out uses gateway discs as if he’d made them himself. Several times over the last few years I told John E it was ok to use discs from other companies that it wouldn’t effect our relationship with him and that our company has a long term plan for him. I know there are discs from other companies that could help John E the same way Niiko used discs from Gateway, Innova and discraft, to break and still hold the yearly money earning record of nearly $50k) , win player of the year three years in a row from 2009-2011 and capture the largest purse in PDGA history of $15k at the 2009 USDGC.
It’s no secret that I believe a player has a competitive advantage if he uses the very best disc from each one of the disc manufactures.
Is having a mixed disc bag good for the sport?
John has refused to use anything but Gateway discs since we started sponsoring him over ten years ago. I’m pretty sure that John likes being the underdog ( although he is definitely one of the favorites at every event he plays) and that throwing only Gateway motivates him at times to find that extra gear.
He likes the the role of ” JohnEGateway” vs the world and uses it to his advantage to motivate him.
Please visit John E’s website for information on his tour.
John E’s ” it’s about time tour” is just that! It’s time players and fans all over the world get to see John E play and what it means to be a professional in all sense of the words.
he and his wife and kid are traveling around the country playing disc golf tournaments and running clinics and participating in league nights promoting Gateway discs.
On the road with Captain John
If your city or course is within their travels and you would like to have John out for a clinic, I would not pass up on the opportunity to have John out for a day.
To arrange for a clinic at your home course, Jen McCray can be reach at Email me! or call 813-323-4779 just contact her and she will try and set it up for John E to show off his skills and our products and help teach players in your area a thing or three about how the game is played!