When Conor McGrath competed in a 2019 Temple golf tournament, he was ahead of his older brother, Liam, on the scoreboard after two rounds.
Conor joked with Liam, who also played for the Owls, about his lead. But without hesitation, Liam said, “I’m going to beat you tomorrow.”
“He shot 65 and absolutely dusted me,” Conor said. “After I finished, he goes, ‘I told you.’”
Conor said Liam is his best friend and chief competitor, but their camaraderie is built around making each other better. The brothers went from aggressive games of chip and putt to bringing Temple’s program to new heights, and Conor plans to do the same thing for his brother Brett, who is a freshman this season.
The McGrath family’s success is rooted in a childhood spent around golf. Most weekends they could be found at Huntingdon Valley Country Club, where Liam, Conor, Brett, and their two youngest siblings, Emma and Todd, played alongside their parents.
“It really turned into something that we absolutely loved,” Liam said. “We were at the golf course every single day during the summers from sunup to sundown.”
By middle school, Liam and Conor joined the country club’s junior golf league and competed in individual tournaments. The brothers started with six holes, then worked up to nine, and finally completed 18 holes at different courses.
“That’s when we started to get a little more serious and started to play in actual tournaments around the area,” Liam said. “Then more like regional and then kind of going all over the place to play.”
Their high school, Academy of the New Church, in Bryn Athyn, didn’t have a golf team, so junior golf helped the brothers advance in the sport. Conor and Liam cut out other sports, like lacrosse and ice hockey, in high school and attended tournaments and camps, where they met Temple coach Brian Quinn.
Quinn could instantly see the McGrath boys had talent when they played his event in Conshohocken.
“The golf club just melts in their hands, it just fits them so perfectly,” Quinn said. “The way they swing the golf club and play two totally different ways, you know, just a beautiful thing.”
Since the two played different styles, Liam and Conor started to compare strengths and weaknesses to help each other improve.
Liam went to Conor for swinging tips and Conor leaned on Liam’s laid-back personality to build a better on-course mentality.
“I learned a lot from [Liam] and getting to see him do it first also helped,” Conor said. “Like the whole college process, bigger tournaments in high school, so getting to see him do that stuff made it easier and almost more comfortable for me to circulate that.”
Liam was recruited by Furman in 2016. After a year with the Paladins, he suffered tendinitis in his elbow and needed surgery, which ultimately led to his decision to transfer to Temple in 2017.
Conor, who missed his brother, would visit Liam at Temple while still in high school, and became well immersed in Temple’s golf culture.
“Conor had a lot of opportunities to go play wherever he wanted,” Quinn said. “But I think he wanted to go play golf with his brother and he ended up coming.”
When Conor joined the Owls in 2018, Liam helped his younger brother transition to the collegiate level by guiding him through workouts, class studies, and tutoring. Liam then graduated in the summer of 2020 and has become a golfing weekend warrior while working in retirement benefits.
Liam’s help had an impact on Conor, who played in 23 of 32 rounds and placed fifth on the team in his first season, compiling a 75.70 stroke average over nine tournaments. In his second season, Conor ranked second on the team with a 73.86 stroke average and had his best performance at the Phoenix Invitational, where he shot four rounds at or below par. Seeing the success of his older brothers ultimately made Brett’s college decision much easier.
“[Brett’s] really grown in every aspect and he’s continuing to grow,” Quinn said. “He’s learned so much already being here, so it’s been really nice to see and it’s nice to have Conor there to kind of look out for him and teach him some of the stuff that he might not have otherwise.”
Conor has one more season of college eligibility after this year, but Quinn believes a bright future awaits Conor in the professional ranks.
In June, Conor won the 121st BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship title and set two school records at GolfWeek Fall Challenge on Sept. 14, with a 13-under 203 to place second among the 93 golfers in the field.
“He is the most talented player I’ve had in my 16 years of coaching at Temple,” Quinn said. “I’ve had some great ones, but Conor checks every single box.”
Conor knows, no matter where golf takes him, he will continue to spend time with his brothers on the course.
“We spent so much time on the course practicing together,” Conor said. “Over the years it just made us want to be better, work a bit harder, and the support to always have each other’s backs, help one another when we need it, definitely brought us closer together.”