McNealy wins again, should lock up NCAA POY title

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Maverick McNealy needed only to look back to this event a year ago to appreciate how far he’s come. 

It was the 2014 NCAA regionals where he had his worst tournament of the year – a tie for 64th, after rounds of 73-82-79. At that point he didn't even know if he'd be in the lineup for NCAAs.

And now? 

His rapid ascent has been one of the main storylines this season, as the Stanford sophomore essentially clinched national player of the honors Saturday with a two-shot win at the Chapel Hill regional. It was McNealy’s NCAA-best sixth victory of the season, and his fourth in his past seven starts.

“I don’t find much more satisfying than improvement,” he said with a smile. “I haven’t been thinking about (the player-of-the-year discussion), but it’s really cool to be a part of that conversation."

Entering this week, McNealy had the nation’s best scoring average, at 68.68. In three rounds here he shot 9-under 207 – capped by a 25-foot birdie putt from the fringe on 17 – to finish ahead of two players. Stanford also advanced to the NCAA Championship after finishing second in the regional. 

“He’s a very quick learner, both in golf and life,” coach Conrad Ray said. “He has the physical skills to do it, and then confidence is a powerful thing.”