Stay-at-Home Dad Deraney Brings New Dimension to Mid-Am
September 13, 2019 | Parker, Colo.
By David Shefter, USGA
The 39th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship features competitors from all walks of life and vocations. Lawyers are teeing it up alongside college coaches. Insurance guys are playing with a sergeant in the U.S. Marines. There is a firefighter – and a former one – competing against full-time caddies and an NHL referee.
There’s even one whose business card would read “Dad.”
Joseph Deraney, 36, of Tupelo, Miss., might have the most domestic occupation among the 264 players battling to hoist the Robert T. Jones Memorial Trophy at Colorado Golf Club.
“I wasn’t always a stay-at-home dad,” said Deraney. “I used to work for a bank.”
Then life got in the way. Deraney and his wife, Sarah, a radiologist, started having kids, three of them in fact. When the couple moved from Lexington, Ky., to Nashville, Tenn., where Sarah was about to begin a fellowship at Vanderbilt University, Joseph’s commute to his bank job suddenly became too distant. Rather than seek alternative employment, he stayed home to care for what was then their two kids. Just when Deraney was about to start another job, Sarah became pregnant with child No. 3 (Elizabeth Grace). Instead of going back to work, Sarah suggested that her husband continue his domestic duties, which is now going on 2½ years.
When Sarah decided to seek a private-practice position last November, they relocated to Tupelo, 67 miles north of where the two met at Mississippi State University (Starkville). Joseph was on the golf team and Sarah ran for the cross-country and track teams.
The arrangement creates an interesting dynamic for Deraney, one of the top mid-amateur players in the country and ranked 220 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™. He comes into the U.S. Mid-Amateur fresh off a second consecutive Canadian Mid-Amateur title, edging NHL referee and 2019 Western Amateur champion Garrett Rank by one stroke in the 72-hole event at Summit Golf Club near Toronto in August.
With all three children under the age of 6, finding time to practice and play can be like solving a jigsaw puzzle. At least with school back in session – 5-year-old Everett has started kindergarten – Deraney can squeeze in a few hours on the course in the middle of the week and on weekends when Sarah doesn’t have office hours. Fortunately, they live adjacent to Tupelo Country Club, so Deraney can jump in his golf cart and get in a few hours of work when 3-year-old Kathryn and Elizabeth (now 2) are in nursery school.
On the weekends, he’ll often make the 60-minute trek to Old Waverly Golf Club – he is a member at the club that hosted last month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship – in West Point to play or get a lesson from noted instructor V.J. Trolio, whose son, Cohen, advanced to the semifinals of this year’s U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst.
“Man, I feel blessed that I can even do it,” said Deraney on balancing elite-level golf with family duties. “Being a little older, I have started to figure that out. That helps a little bit.”
Golf tournaments also provide a bit of a respite. While many of his fellow mid-amateurs might be answering emails or making business calls to keep up with their day jobs during this week’s championship, Deraney can completely focus on golf. Outside of staying in touch with his family, he doesn’t have any other duties once he leaves home. His biggest challenge is the few days before he departs, making sure the kids have someone properly supervising them. For USGA championships, that means bringing in grandparents from Florida (Deraney’s mom), Georgia (his dad) or Tennessee (in-laws).
“I do a lot of prep when I get to the actual golf tournaments,” he said. “I spend a lot of time chipping and putting, and that’s mainly because it’s so relaxing. All the prep work leading up to it is the hard work.”
That means getting the girls to gymnastics on Mondays, and Everett to soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Recently, his domestic duties involved clearing trees and other debris to create more backyard space.
It’s all part of the trade-off.
“We have a wonderful marriage and she is encouraging,” said Deraney of Sarah. “I’m sure she is annoyed at some point [with my golf travel]. She knows I love it. She had a good time at the RBC [Canadian Open].”
As a perk for winning the 2018 Canadian Mid-Amateur, Deraney earned an exemption into the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open, where he missed the cut. Deraney’s repeat victory last month means that he’ll be headed back to the same tournament in 2020, and this time they might bring the kids. The trip likely will include another top amateur tournament – maybe the Sunnehanna Amateur in Pennsylvania – and hopefully the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club, which is a week after the Canadian Open. Of course, if he wins the U.S. Mid-Amateur, he’ll have a tee time, as the champion receives an exemption.
Deraney also has his eye on competing in the British Amateur and other overseas competitions, if he can logistically fit it into his schedule.
“It’s on our bucket list,” said Deraney, whose wife also enjoys traveling. “Being gone for two weeks is difficult when you have three [kids].”
Deraney, like so many who have played at the Division I level, gave professional golf a shot after graduating from Mississippi State in 2006. By 2009, he had given up on those aspirations and settled into a regular 9-to-5 job. He regained his amateur status in 2011, but didn’t think about competing again until he noticed the 2013 Tennessee Amateur was scheduled for Colonial Country Club in Memphis, one of his favorite venues. The passion for the game he had as a junior growing up in Georgia and in college returned. Not long after his return to amateur golf, Deraney started winning big mid-amateur events such as the Lupton Invitational at The Honors Course, the Timuquana (Country Club) Cup in Florida and the Carlton Woods Invitational in Texas.
This summer, he also won the Mississippi State Amateur against a field that included University of Alabama golfer Wilson Furr and other top college players. That earned him a spot in the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson. But if he qualifies for match play in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, he’ll have to withdraw because the event starts on Thursday.
“The Sanderson Farms people have been wonderful,” said Deraney. “I think they understand my position. They know I want to play well in the Mid-Am. But it’s a cool kind of caveat that if I don’t play well [in Colorado], I can come home and play in a tour event.”
While Deraney put in plenty of daddy duties before departing for Colorado, he still felt good about his game going into the Mid-Amateur. Trolio’s tutelage has helped improve his wedge game, giving Deraney additional confidence he can go further than the Round of 64 in a USGA championship. In 2003, he lost to future PGA Tour winner Brendan Steele, 4 and 2, in the U.S. Amateur Public Links. Two years ago, he missed the cut in the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Capital City Club in suburban Atlanta.
Now with his game on the rise and his fatherly duties handled, Deraney can blame only himself if he doesn’t meet his expectations in Colorado.
“There’s no excuse for me,” he said. “There might be a time constraint, but there’s no excuse.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.