Those fortunate enough to have known Rachel McKay — or Randy, as her close friends called her — remember a genuine, kindhearted person whose charisma and contagious personality made a lasting impression.
The William Smith College graduate, who established herself as one of the top players in the brief history of the Herons’ golf program, was a rising Army sergeant with incredible potential, a young women who had earned the respect of her fellow soldiers.
McKay, 23, died unexpectedly April 8 at Fort Gordon in Georgia. The Army is investigating her death.
Before enlisting, McKay was a star golfer at William Smith and, as her closest friends noted, an even better teammate.
“She could tell if you were having a hard day at practice and if you needed someone to just say, ‘Hey, you got this. Keep going,’ ” said Tess Madarasz, McKay’s close friend and a teammate for three years at William Smith; the two played on the ice hockey and golf teams together. “She just knew, somehow, when you needed a teammate to pick you up.”
Being a good teammate isn’t simply about providing kind words and encouragement. It requires honesty.
While McKay knew when someone needed an emotional pickup, she was unafraid to be the motivational voice on the bench or on the course.
“One of the things I love most about her is that she was super honest on the ice all the time. She was that person who wasn’t scared to call people out for not giving their best effort,” said another close friend and former linemate on the hockey team, Tina D’Alassandro. “Not everyone has the ability to be truthful and honest to each other about their effort. She was never scared to do that, and I always loved her for that.”
While McKay is lauded for being a model teammate and person, there was no mistaking her athletic ability.
In three seasons on the William Smith golf team, she was the only Heron to play in all 49 matches while posting an scoring average of 92.1, which ranks as third best on the program’s all-time list. She was the top-finishing Heron at the Liberty League tournament in all three of her campaigns.
In McKay’s senior year, she carded 10 of the team’s top 12 18-hole scores while posting a scoring average of 89.6, the third-best season scoring average in the 14-season history of the Heron golf program. That was one of the main reasons she earned the team’s Most Valuable Player award.
As good as she was, McKay never let her athletic ability get in the way of making the people around her better.
“It didn’t matter what your skill was to her. She would talk to kids that were shooting 130 the same way she talked to kids that were shooting in the mid-80s,” Madarasz said. “It was never, ever about her. It was always about her teammates and how they were feeling.”
As a friend of McKay, I can say she was one of the most authentic people I have ever met. The first time I met her, she came across as an extremely fit, broad-shouldered, built-like-a-brick-house-type of athlete, yet I soon discovered that behind her exterior of athleticism and casual teasing was a truly genuine person.
That’s why McKay was so loved as a person and teammate: She was authentic, something that is rare to find whether you’re in a metropolis or a small community like HWS.
Never once would she say what someone wanted to hear, only what they needed to hear from a person and teammate who never shied away from being honest.
“She showed her love intensely,” wrote Laurel Brown, a classmate and teammate of McKay’s on the hockey team, in a text message. “When I was hanging out with her I felt invincible, like I could be completely myself and not have a single worry about what other people might think because all she wanted was to hang out with my most authentic self too.”
Another close friend and teammate, Grace Durham, expressed similar feelings.
“She would do anything for any one of her teammates. We all knew that,” Durham said in a text message. “Dropping the gloves, comic relief, or picking someone up, Rachel was always everyone’s go-to.”
Relentless. Unselfish. Honest. Humble. Rachel ‘Randy’ McKay embodied each of those adjectives to their core. She was a relentless friend, an unselfish and honest teammate, and a genuine pleasure to know.
We will miss her terribly.