McNealy relaxed, recharged at Players Amateur

BLUFFTON, S.C. – After an NCAA Championship that seemed to go on forever, a first foray through Stanford finals, freshman move-out, U.S. Open qualifying and the coveted tournament itself, Maverick McNealy deserved a little downtime.

Relaxed and recharged, however, he’s carrying the Cardinal torch with gusto at Berkeley Hall Golf Club.

McNealy is 4 under after 36 holes of the Players Amateur, and one of a handful of players within reach of leader Garrett Rank, whose second-round 10-under 62 moved him to 11 under.

“If you had asked me, I would not have said that was out there,” McNealy said incredulously of that 62 after the second round. “… If I saw him, I would give him a high five.”

The Stanford sophomore is like this, quick to smile and look at a situation from the most positive angle. At the Players, McNealy even had something nice to say about the grass.

A California native, McNealy is playing on Bermuda grass at Berkeley Hall for only the fourth time in his life. The third time was at Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open, where McNealy missed the cut by five shots.

“I think I’m spoiled on Bermuda grass for life,” he noted seriously.

With that optimism, McNealy will be a crucial returning player for Stanford. The Cardinal lost perhaps the greatest one-two punch in college golf in the spring – Patrick Rodgers, winner of the Haskins, Hogan and Nicklaus awards, and Cameron Wilson, the NCAA individual champion. With those two in the lead, Stanford won stroke play at the NCAA Championship, took the No. 1 seed into match play then fell to Oklahoma State in the semifinals. McNealy tied for 55th in stroke play, and went 21 holes in his semifinal match against Oklahoma State’s Talor Gooch before finally falling.

Only four days separated the NCAA Championship from U.S. Open sectional qualifying, which was just four days before finals. Then came the trip to Pinehurst. It was a stretch that truly shaped McNealy as a player.

“That was some of the most fun golf I’ve ever played,” he said of the NCAA postseason. “I wanted that one so bad, it still bites a little bit.”

What McNealy thinks went unnoticed in all of that buzz was that classmate Jim Liu, who won the 2010 U.S. Junior at the age of 14, didn’t even travel to the NCAA Championship. Fellow underclassmen Viraat Badhwar and David Boote improved greatly through the season.

“I think we will be better off than people think,” McNealy said.

Until then, McNealy has 36 holes left at Berkeley Hall to give Rank chase before he heads back to the West Coast. McNealy will play the U.S. Amateur near Atlanta next month, the State Fair Amateur in Sacramento, Calif., then return to Stanford for his sophomore campaign.

The McNealy home is only about 10 minutes the Stanford campus, but McNealy prefers to live in the dorms. Nearly the entire student body does, he says.

McNealy’s parents met at Stanford and so did his aunt and uncle – the latter couple even met in McNealy’s very dorm, Soto. Safe to say he truly has Cardinal red in his genes.

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification