FALL 2017

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"It set the tone," he said, as the U.S. side fell to Great Britain and Ireland. Fast-forward to September 2017 at The Los Angeles Country Club, where McNealy, 21, was the lone returnee on the U.S. Walker Cup squad. On the first hole of his match, McNealy's partner smoked a drive, McNealy "semi-bladed a 4-iron" that somehow found the putting surface and his partner lagged to around 3 feet. The nerves hit hard, but beneath it all were the seeds of confidence. "I was shaking," McNealy said. "My legs were shaking, my forearms were shaking over that putt and thank God I made it." McNealy won all four of his matches this time as the U.S. routed GB&I. McNealy lives for such moments—and these two scenes, as much as anything—may explain why he opted to turn profes- sional. The Stanford graduate with a degree in management science and engineering announced his decision on the school's athletic web site in a 1,200-word missive in late August. "What makes me different is that I arrived at this decision much later than most," he wrote. The Portola Valley product won an NCAA- best six college tournaments as a sophomore, while leading the nation with a 69.05 scoring av- erage. McNealy captured both the Fred Haskins Award and Jack Nicklaus Award in recognition of being the top college golfer in 2014–2015. It was the type of season that earns lucrative endorse- ment deals and often leads to an early college exit to chase the Monopoly money available in the pro ranks. But McNealy considered taking a different route to owning Park Place and Boardwalk some- day. Inspired by his father, Scott—a Silicon Valley titan who co-founded Sun Microsys- tems—McNealy dabbled with the idea of focusing on a business career and making a name for himself as a career amateur golfer. "There's Steve Jobs, there's Bobby Jones and there's Jordan Spieth. He has the oppor- tunity to try to be like any of those," Scott said. "The question he has to ask himself is, 'What matters to him most?' " Nobody pegged McNealy as a future star. As a junior, high school golf never received McNealy's full devotion. He played ice hockey for the San Jose Junior Sharks—and entertained the possibility of playing both sports at an Ivy League school—until Stanford men's golf coach Conrad Ray recruited him. "I still don't know what got into him to take the 4,400th-ranked amateur in the world," McNealy said. McNealy blossomed at Stanford and won the 2015 NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship. In January, he gathered his parents, Coach Ray and his swing instructor, Alex Murray, and told them he wanted to commit to a pro career. He ended his college career with 11 titles, matching the total of Stanford greats Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers—and won the Ben Hogan Award as the outstanding male amateur and collegiate golfer of the year. After much debate, McNealy decided in January that he would see if his game matched up with the best at the top level. McNealy will make his pro debut on a sponsor's exemption at the Safeway Open in nearby Napa, the first tournament of the 2017–18 PGA Tour season. He also secured exemptions for the Farmers Insurance Open, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the AT&T Byron Nelson, the Dean & Deluca Invitational and the Shriners Hospital for Chil- dren Open in Las Vegas, where he recently moved. He's also exempt into the second stage of Tour Qualifying School. "Hopefully I keep playing more good golf, make some birdies and win some golf tournaments," McNealy said. "I'm starting out as, I think, No. 1,800 ranked in the world and I'm looking to move on up." 18 FALL 2017 | NCGA.ORG Maverick McNealy chooses professional golf over a life in business BY ADAM SCHUPAK T wo years ago at the Walker Cup in England, Maverick McNealy struck the opening tee shot for the American side in the biennial competition. The wind was howling and his knees quaked. McNealy's drive flew like a kite out of control and stopped right up against the lip of a pot bunker. JD CUBAN/USGA Tour Watch : The 'BIG DECISION' S H A G B A G

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