ORLANDO, Fla. – Perhaps golf fans need to grow accustomed to seeing the “amateur” distinction on PGA Tour leaderboards.
One week after Georgia’s Lee McCoy stole the show at the Valspar Championship, another notable amateur is thriving at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This time it’s Stanford star Maverick McNealy climbing the standings, as his 4-under 140 total easily made the cut and left him inside the top 20 upon completion of his round.
“I’m hitting it great right now,” McNealy said after a second-round 71. “I have to give credit to my swing coach, Alex Murray. We figured something out on Monday and Tuesday, and I’ve been striping it ever since. Probably the best I’ve hit it in at least a year, since last spring.”
The reigning NCAA Player of the Year is no stranger to PGA Tour competition, having made the cut at both The Greenbrier Classic and Barbasol Championship last summer. While he sits nine shots behind leader Jason Day and admits to struggling with some of the green speeds at Bay Hill, McNealy has made only two bogeys through 36 holes and already considers this week a success.
“My goal is just to come out here and have fun, learn as much as I can, play some good golf and have a good attitude. All the things I can control,” he said. “It’s tough to contend with 66-65; that would be lights-out golf for me. It’s lights-out golf by anyone’s standards. But I’d say that I’ve accomplished my goals of doing the best I can, and I’ve played some pretty good golf so far.”
McNealy has competed with McCoy on the junior and college golf circuit for years, and he said they shared a phone call following McCoy’s fourth-place finish in Tampa.
“He kind of gave me a vote of confidence, saying just go play your game and you can do it,” McNealy said. “It’s inspiring watching him, but I’m not surprised by his good play. He’s an incredible player and it’s fun that people are finally realizing that.”