McNealy 'full bore ahead' into professional career

By Ryan LavnerAugust 23, 2017, 4:54 pm

Maverick McNealy was relaxing in his hotel room in Bradenton, Fla., when his phone buzzed.

It was May 2015, and he’d just wrapped up a sensational sophomore season at Stanford in which he’d won six titles, earned Player of the Year honors and intrigued observers with his meteoric rise and backstory as the son of a Silicon Valley tycoon. But now, his father, Scott, was on the other end of the phone, with some unexpected career advice.

“If you want to turn pro,” Scott said, “this would be a great time.”

Maverick was shocked.

“Dad,” he said, “that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. There’s no chance I’m not coming back to Stanford.”

Over the past two years, McNealy’s reluctance to turn pro has fascinated the amateur golf community, but with his college eligibility exhausted, and with so much yet to experience, he finally confirmed Wednesday that he will enter the pro ranks after the Walker Cup. The 21-year-old will make his debut Oct. 5 at the PGA Tour’s season-opening Safeway Open – the end of a two-year, will-he-or-won’t-he saga that began as soon as he hung up the phone in his Florida hotel room.  


Related: Stanford's McNealy wins Ben Hogan Award

Related: Stanford's McNealy wins Byron Nelson Award

Lavner: McNealy torn between professional golf and life as an am


“To be completely honest,” he told GolfChannel.com this week, “there’s one guy on each shoulder: One guy is saying, What are you doing, Maverick? These guys are extremely good. But the other guy is saying, There’s so much fun and potential to do cool things and have a blast.

“I’m nervous and excited, but I also realize it’s not a walk in the park and for a professional athlete, it’s the furthest thing from a certain outcome and future. But I’m full bore ahead, trying to become the best player I can be.”

McNealy’s initial opposition was understandable: Professional golf never was in his plans. Growing up, he assumed that he’d follow his father’s lead and enter the business world. (Scott co-founded Sun Microsystems and currently serves as the CEO of Wayin, a Denver-based social-media startup.) At Stanford, Maverick was a management science and engineering major, and he joined the golf team as an unheralded freshman. His breakout sophomore season and ascent to the top of the World Amateur Rankings surprised everyone – mostly McNealy himself.

It wasn’t an act, some ploy to draw attention – during several interviews over the past three years, McNealy genuinely wavered between his two career choices. But eschewing the pros would have been unprecedented, at least in the modern era: Only one All-American in the past 25 years has decided against turning pro, and Trip Kuehne didn’t boast a college résumé as strong as McNealy’s.

Though he couldn’t match the same production over his final two college seasons – he finished his career tied with Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers for the most victories in Stanford history, with 11 – McNealy initiated a meeting in January with his parents, swing coach Alex Murray and Cardinal coach Conrad Ray to explore the possibility of a pro career. The discussion didn’t go as planned.

“My dad is the world’s best devil’s advocate,” McNealy said, “and he laid down every single reason why I shouldn’t turn pro. My world was turned upside down.”

But after more contemplation, he returned with the four biggest reasons why he wanted to test the pro ranks:

1. He loves golf. “That’s the core of any decision,” he said, “that you love what you’re doing.”

2. He believes he can improve. “Getting better is one of the most rewarding things for me in life,” he said, “and there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

3. The ball doesn’t care who you are. “It’s been a motivating factor in my life, that I need to outwork everyone to show that the success I do earn is a product of hard work and not just that it was given to me,” he said. “There’s always been a little chip on my shoulder, but I’m not out to prove anything. I’m not trying to create my own identity or overcome anything or break down any sort of preconceived notions about me. I want to play golf and do some cool things.”

And finally: 4. Professional golf will be fun. He gets to play a game for a living. Compete. Travel the world. Meet new and interesting people.

Those four reasons, that explanation, was all his famous father needed to hear.

“The only way you can screw this up,” Scott said, “is if you’re not 100 percent. If you commit and never look back, you’ll have made a great decision.”

Former Stanford teammates Cameron Wilson and Rodgers offered similar counsel: Don’t put a deadline on your career, whether it’s five years or 15. Be all in.

“I’m fairly secure in my reasons to turn professional,” McNealy said. “Even if – absolute worst-case scenario – that I don’t play well the next five years and I have nowhere to play, then at least I gave it a shot.

“When I look back on my career, the only way I’d be dissatisfied was if I went at it half-heartedly.”

And so he is moving forward, without hesitation, embarking on a career he never thought possible.

McNealy is being represented by Peter Webb of P3Sports Reps. He is moving to Las Vegas next week. And he is announcing equipment and apparel deals shortly. Next season he will receive the maximum seven sponsor exemptions allowed to non-members.

“I’m excited to see how he does,” Ray said. “He has left a strong legacy here.”

When McNealy tees it up in Napa, he’ll have made nine previous starts in a professional event, with his best finish a tie for 44th at this year’s John Deere Classic. But even more than how his game stacked up, he was most curious to experience the weekly monotony of Tour life – the travel, the lonely hotel rooms, the pre-tournament routine, the media obligations, the evaluation afterward.

“I thought I’d hate it,” he said, “but I actually really enjoyed it.”

At the Barracuda Championship, McNealy participated in a junior clinic on Tuesday of tournament week – a perfect introduction, he said, because he wants to focus his off-course efforts on growing youth sports. Given his unique background, what has always appealed to McNealy about the pro game wasn’t fame or fortune. It was the Tour’s charitable initiatives.

“I’d love to be a great role model and an inspiration,” he said, “but for any of that to matter, I have to play well and succeed.”

Even if his results suggest otherwise, McNealy insists that he’s a better player now than he was two years ago, when he dominated college golf, when his dad said it’d be a “great time” to turn pro.

Since then, he has learned how to manage expectations, both internal and external.

He has gained more tournament experience.

And he has learned about himself – his stressors, his limits, his keys to unlocking his potential.

Somehow, he is ready.

“I have a much better chance to win than in my sophomore year,” he said. “I couldn’t be more confident about my game right now.”

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: