SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Fifteen teams went home Sunday evening at Rich Harvest Farms, their stays at the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship over. For Stanford senior Maverick McNealy, it was his final day as an official member of the Cardinal men’s golf team.
“Disappointing round, disappointing finish,” said McNealy, whose third-round, 2-over 74 put the finishing touches on a 5-over performance for the week. (Stanford finishes at 15 over, eight back of UCF for the final team spot in Monday’s final round of stroke play.)
“… I couldn’t have imagined a better four years. Very mixed emotions. I’m sad it’s all over, but excited for whatever comes next.”
McNealy, 21, has a bright future in which ever route he chooses to take: pro golf or the business world. The decision hasn’t been made yet, but McNealy says he’s getting closer. For now, he’ll take a couple of days off before returning to practice. He’ll play in the Palmer Cup next month before teeing it up in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
“I’m right back into practicing, and need to work on the putting and get that going in the right direction,” said McNealy, who said he lost six shots on the greens the first two rounds. “I’m hitting it great. I think my game is trending in the right direction. This was really my first setback in the last couple of months, based on how my game is going.
“… I want to play again. I want more reps. I want to put some good tournaments together and hit some good shots when I need to, and I think that will build on itself.”
Stanford head coach Conrad Ray called his team’s early exit, their third in as many years at the NCAA Championship, a “total bummer.”
“We had a great team this year,” Ray said. “Obviously at the NCAAs, you’ve got to bring it when it really matters under the bright lights, and our guys didn’t have their best stuff this week.
“… I do think the nature of the guys we have, they’re really analytical, really bright, really smart guys, they work hard, and I think that sometimes there’s a little bit of going down the double-black diamond at NCAAs, and you’ve got to kind of let it go and not control it so much.”
One thing Ray will let go now is McNealy, his four-year player who ended his Stanford career with 11 career victories, tying him with Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers, a Haskins Award, a Hogan Award and three Pac-12 team championships, among countless other accomplishments.
The thing Ray will miss the most, though, has nothing to do with McNealy’s golf talents. During the final round, Ray said he heard that McNealy stopped to greet Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich on the 15th hole and thank him for hosting the event.
“You see the good scores and his wins and he’s been on a good team; those are kind of the product stuff,” Ray said. “But it’s the stuff you can’t put your finger on, the intangibles, that really stands out for me. It will be tough to see him graduate but I’m excited for him. He’s got a bright future ahead no matter what he does.”
Ray continued on about McNealy: “Arguably one of the best careers we’ve ever had at our program. … He’s been an amazing kid to coach. He’s an absolute role model in every sense of the word, student athlete through and through. He’s definitely left his mark on our program.
“I’d be blessed if I was able to find another guy like him.”