August 14, 2015
Maverick McNealy’s plan was to use the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship as a warm up for next week’s U.S. Amateur.
The Stanford junior did just that, and walked away with yet another trophy in the process.
Recently named to the 2015 U.S. Walker Cup squad, the No.1 seeded McNealy lived up to all the expectations—and tossed in some history—in winning the 112th NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship Friday at par-72 Spyglass Hill. In the 36-hole finale, McNealy defeated San Francisco’s Matt Cohn, 6 and 5.
“Spyglass Hill is a course I’ve played many times as a kid and I’ve played many tournaments here. To come out as the champion is pretty neat,” McNealy said.
If the week was any indication, McNealy should be ready to go at Olympia Fields. In Monday’s stroke play qualifying round, he’d fire an NCGA competitive low record 7-under 65 at Spyglass Hill. McNealy’s two-day stroke play total of 8-under 136 also was a championship record and is the low 36-hole total for any NCGA event that’s been held at Spyglass Hill.
As the week progressed, he only continued to impress. Over the entire 123 holes he played, McNealy went 32-under. In between it all, he’d go on a streak where he played 47 straight holes at par or better.
“These are great conditions for me to prep for the U.S. Amateur. The course was as fast and firm as I’ve ever seen it,” said McNealy, who became the first medalist to win the title since Ryan Thornberry in 2006. “You had to be cognizant where you were landing it on the greens. I think I accomplished what I wanted to do in respect to preparing for next week.”
McNealy also found himself getting tested by the No.7 seeded Cohn. A 34-year-old tutor and college admissions consultant, Cohn took a 1-up lead over the heavy favorite twice within the first six holes with birdies.
“I actually felt more calm playing Mav, at least early on. But that’s probably because I knew it was a 36-hole match,” Cohn said.
Both leads only lasted a hole, but Cohn never wavered. With a birdie on the 14th, he’d cut a McNealy 2-up lead back to just 1-up.
The big difference in the morning round would be a McNealy birdie on the 17th and a Cohn bogey on the 18th that gave McNealy a 3-up lead at the break.
“On the 17th we almost had the exact same putt. He made his and I missed. You make a handful of mistakes…that’s the difference of playing someone of his caliber,” Cohn said. “It’s one swing here or one misread putt there. The little things compound when you’re facing a guy not making those mistakes.”
In the afternoon portion, McNealy tried to keep applying more heat. He’d build his lead to 4-up, but Cohn would not go away thanks primarily to some fantastic play around the greens.
On the par-4 22nd hole (No.4), McNealy made a terrific up-and-down for birdie from the greenside bunker. Cohn matched him with a brilliant wedge shot from off the green that led to a birdie.
“It wasn’t an easy match. It was bloody. It was a difficult match for me psychologically,” McNealy said. “I’d be in control and he’d make a miraculous, unbelievable up-and-down. His short game was great. I had to refocus and try to make birdies and pars…whatever it took.”
Continuously pushed, on the 29th hole (the par-5 11th), McNealy finally re-took a 4-up lead by making a routine eagle. After that, Cohn ran out of magic. McNealy would seal the victory with pars on the 30th and 31st holes.
Despite the loss, for Cohn it was a day he’ll never forget.
“It was so much fun,” Cohn said. “It was exactly what I thought it would be. I played well most of the day and he played better. Through 29 holes I was 2-under and four down and he wasn’t even playing his best.”
For McNealy, it’s now all about next week’s U.S. Amateur. He’ll head to Olympia Fields looking to become the first Northern California player to win the U.S. Amateur since Ricky Barnes in 2002.
“I’d love to bring that trophy back to NorCal,” he said.
August 13, 2015
No.2 world-ranked Maverick McNealy is right where everyone thought he’d be. Matt Cohn, meanwhile, will have a shot at what would be one of the greatest upsets in NCGA history.
McNealy, the No.1 seed, and Cohn, the No.7 seed, will square off in Friday’s 36-hole finale of this week’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship after advancing through Thursday’s semifinals on another breathtaking day at par-72 Spyglass Hill. McNealy moved on with a 4 and 3 victory over No.28 Shintaro Ban, while the No.7 seed Cohn dispatched No.14 Scott Mitchell, 4 and 2.
The heavy favorite all week, McNealy finally—albeit for only a fleeting moment—showed some signs of vulnerability in his match versus Ban. For the first time in four matches, the Stanford junior didn’t win the first hole, as the two halved with pars. A few holes later on the par-3 5th, McNealy three-putted for a bogey while Ban carded a par.
The bogey was McNealy’s first hole played over par since a double-bogey on the 16th in Tuesday’s stroke play qualifying round. It also marked the first time that he had trailed in a match.
“The putts just didn’t drop in as often today,” said McNealy, who prior to the miscue had played a tough Spyglass Hill course bogey-free for 83 straight holes. “We both missed some putts early that didn’t drop.”
A sophomore at UNLV, Ban would only get to enjoy the lead for one hole. On the par-5 7th, the 2014 San Francisco City champion mishit his approach shot, leaving him 40 yards short of the green. Ban’s miscue led to a bogey, while McNealy made par.
“I felt like if I just played my game, I’d have a chance. It’s match play, and anything can happen,” Ban said.
A hole later on the 8th, McNealy sank his birdie putt and was off and running again. With another birdie on the 10th, his lead went to 2-up. On the par-5 11th, it went to 3-up when Ban carded a bogey after hitting his approach shot into the greenside bunker.
“I made more mistakes on the back-nine,” Ban said. “I just tried to tell myself, don’t give up until it’s over.”
Ban did his best to keep up from there, but McNealy sealed the deal with one more birdie putt on the par-3 15th. Entering Friday’s finals, McNealy will be an eye-popping 25-under through 92 holes.
“I played pretty well coming in,” said McNealy, who had Stanford teammate Brad Knox on the bag as caddie. “Close matches might not as seem as fun but that’s how you get better. I was definitely tested in the middle of the round, and I felt I responded solidly there.”
Cohn, a 34-year-old tutor and college admissions consultant in San Francisco, was solid himself. He’d take a 4-up lead over Mitchell through the first five holes thanks in part to birdies on No.2 and No.5. Mitchell, a home-schooled high school senior, managed to cut the deficit to 2-up with a par on the 10th, but Cohn never again budged. He’d close out the win with pars on the 16th and 17th holes.
For Cohn, it’s his first trip to the finals. He’d fall in last year’s semifinals to eventual champion Matthew Seramin. On his way to the semifinals, he knocked out last year’s marquee player, Corey Pereira.
“I did not want to lose in the semifinals again,” said Cohn, who boasts a 10-3 career record in the match play portion of the championship. “There was a strong push not to lose on Thursday again.”
A former collegiate player at the University of Oklahoma, Cohn made his push to the finals thanks in part to some dazzling bunker play. In his 19th hole win over Jon Peterson in the morning quarterfinals, he went 5-for-5 in sand saves. Against Mitchell, he came up with another big sand save on the 14th to keep his lead at 2-up.
His reward is now a match against the highest world-ranked player to ever compete in an NCGA championship.
“I understand the position I’m in and who I’m playing. If I win it’ll be an incredible honor to win and beat him. If I lose, it’ll be an honor to have played him in the finals,” Cohn said. “I couldn’t be more excited for it. Either way, it’ll be one of my most memorable days on a golf course. It’s going to be fun.”
Stanford junior and No.2 world-ranked amateur Maverick McNealy wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but still went 4-under through 13 holes in defeating San Jose State red-shirt sophomore Matthew Ashley, 7 and 5. Over the 13 holes of the match at Spyglass Hill, McNealy had two birdies and an eagle on the par-5 11th. Ashley, meanwhile, went 5-over.
“We both weren’t at our best. I just made too many mistakes,” Ashley said.
The match was a reunion for Ashley and McNealy, who played together on the Junior Tour of Northern California and remain friends. While Ashley said McNealy isn’t invincible, he had some words of caution for those still in his path.
“When Mav is on his game you’re going to have to go low. When he’s on he’s hard to beat,” Ashley said.
The second player to advance to the afternoon semifinals was 14th seeded Scott Mitchell of Santa Rosa, who defeated No.11 Brandon Lee, 4 and 3. A high school senior, Mitchell took a 1-up lead with a birdie on the par-4 2nd hole and never trailed after that. Birdies on both the 11th and 12th later boosted Mitchell’s lead to 3-up.
UNLV sophomore Shintaro Ban, the highest seed left at No.28, continued his upset run by taking out No.13 Walker Huddy of Cal, 1-up. With the match all-square, Ban, the younger brother of California Amateur Championship winner Shotaro Ban, won the 13th hole with a par. He and Huddy halved the remaining five holes.
The final player to secure a berth in the semifinals was No.7 Matt Cohn, who defeated No.18 Jon Peterson with a birdie on the 19th hole (par-5 1st). Cohn, who also reached the semifinals last year, had a 2-up lead through 16 but bogeyed both No.17 and No.18 to give Peterson, who at 42 was the oldest player left in the brackets, a chance.
The semifinal matches will be McNealy vs. Ban and Mitchell vs. Cohn.
August 12, 2015
2015 NCGA Public Links champion Nick Moore was pumped to play No.2 world ranked Maverick McNealy, but he also knew it would be a tough task.
After falling 6 and 5 to McNealy in Thursday’s quarterfinals of this week’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship at Spyglass Hill, Moore summed up just how hard it was.
“I felt like I needed to birdie every hole to have a chance,” said Moore, who’s one of the top players on the NCGA Amateur Tour.
McNealy, the highest world-ranked amateur to ever play in an NCGA championship, was again in top form in both the Round of 32 and Round of 16.
In his win over Moore and a 4 and 3 victory over Derek Ackerman in the Round of 32, the Stanford junior went a combined 10-under over 28 holes without a single bogey. Overall so far, McNealy is 18-under through 64 holes–on a Spyglass Hill course that is one of the toughest rated courses on the planet.
“There’s a reason why he’s No.2 in the world,” Moore said.
For McNealy, meanwhile, it’s all been business as usual.
“I felt like I played solid golf throughout both rounds,” said McNealy, who was named to this year’s U.S. Walker Cup squad on Monday. “In the afternoon I putted really well and in the morning I hit the ball really well. Derek and Nick were really fun to play with.”
While McNealy was in cruise control, three of the other Top 4 seeds found themselves victims of upsets.
No.2 seed and defending champion Matthew Seramin fell in the Round of 16, 2 and 1, to No.18 seeded Granite Bay GC member Jon Peterson. Peterson, at 42 the oldest player left in the brackets, didn’t get off to the start he wanted to, falling behind by three through the first five holes.
“I was on the verge of jumping into the Pacific Ocean,” Peterson said.
The tide turned, however, when Peterson won holes No.6 through No.9 to bring the match back to all-square. Peterson went on to take the lead on the 13th and later closed things out by sinking a 10-foot par putt on the 16th and a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th.
“I played really well on the back,” Peterson said. “Those last two putts were big.”
While Peterson’s putter warmed up, Seramin, who was looking to become the first repeat winner since John Catlin (2010-2011), couldn’t make anything on the back.
“I gave myself opportunities on the back-nine and just couldn’t convert,” said Seramin, who plans on taking his chances at PGA Tour Q-School this fall. “That’s just how golf is.”
Also getting bounced from the brackets were No.3 seed Justin Suh, who lost 3 and 2 in the Round of 16 to Mayacama GC member Scott Mitchell and No.4 Steven Chung, who fell 6 and 4 to No.29 seed Ryan Knop in the Round of 32.
Knop, a freshman at UC Davis, later lost 6 and 4 to Cal’s Walker Huddy in the Round of 32.
In Thursday morning’s quarterfinals, McNealy will take on No.9 Matthew Ashley. Ashley, a red-shirt sophomore at San Jose State, moved on with a 4 and 3 win in the Round of 32 over Patrick Soli.
Huddy will take on No.28 UNLV sophomore Shintaro Ban, who squeaked out two 1-up wins, and Peterson will face No.7 Matthew Cohn of San Francisco. Cohn reached the semifinals in last year’s championship, knocking out then-marquee player Corey Pereira in the quarterfinals.
Ban, the younger brother of California Amateur Championship winner Shotaro Ban, had a comeback to remember in defeating No.12 Perry Cohen in the Round of 32. Ban was down three through the first three holes and remained three down through the 12th hole.
Ban won the 14th with a birdie and later birdied the 16th through 18th holes to stun Cohen.
In the fourth quarterfinals match, Mitchell will take on No.11 Brandon Lee, who knocked out No.27 Scott Hardy, 3 and 2, in the Round of 32.
The men’s golf coach at St. Mary’s, Hardy is tied for third on the all-time NCGA win list behind Randy Haag and Casey Boyns.
Friday’s quarterfinals will begin at 7 a.m., with the first semifinals match slated to tee off at 12:30 p.m.
August 11, 2015
NCAA Player of the Year Maverick McNealy ran away with medalist honors at Spyglass Hill, albeit it’s a whole new game now.
A day after carding a 7-under 65 McNealy slowed to a 71 in Tuesday’s second round of stroke play qualifying at this week’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship. Regardless, he still earned medalist honors and the No.1 seed in record fashion.
The Stanford junior’s 65 on Monday set an NCGA mark for lowest competitive round at Spyglass Hill. McNealy’s two-day total of 8-under 136, meanwhile, is the lowest 36-hole total for any NCGA championship at Spyglass Hill.
The previous low NCGA 18-hole score at Spyglass Hill was 66, shot by Austin Roberts and Jay Myers during the 2012 Amateur Match Play Championship.
Ed Castagnetto shot 65 at the 1956 Amateur Match Play Championship, but that year’s event was held at Silverado Resort in Napa.
The previous low 36-hole score during the stroke play qualifying portion of the championship (the event moved to 36-hole qualifying in 1996) was 138, set by Eddie Olson in 2005. Olson went on to win the title that year.
“I got a little sloppy,” said McNealy, who opened his round with birdies on three of his first five holes before cooling off. “But I’m happy with the body of work over the last two days.”
Also looking strong are San Jose’s Justin Suh and Meadow Club member and defending champion Matthew Seramin. The two finished stroke play qualifying tied for second at 141 after shooting 70 and 71, respectively.
A freshman at USC, Suh recently became the first player to win two Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year titles. Seramin, a 23-year-old UC Davis grad, plans on taking a shot at PGA Tour Q-School this fall either as a pro or still as an amateur.
“I wanted to try and go out and win medalist,” said Seramin, who was paired with McNealy the last two days. “Maverick is very nice and has a great game. It makes you want to step up your game. Playing with the No.3 ranked amateur in the world is a good way to see how my game compares.”
Finishing in fourth place at 143, and claiming the No.4 seed, was Teal Bend GC member Steven Chung.
The cutline for reaching match play (low 32) came at 5-over 149.
Among those missing the cut were 2014 NCGA Player of the Year runner-up Jason Anthony (150), recent NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship winner Robby Salomon (152) and 2015 NCGA Master Division champ Jerry Ledzinski (155).
Wednesday’s action will consist of both the first and second rounds of match play,
August 10, 2015
All eyes were on NCAA Player of the Year Maverick McNealy during Monday’s opening round of this week’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship.
He didn’t disappoint.
The Stanford junior, who’s the No.3 ranked amateur in the world, took the first round lead in the stroke play qualifying portion of this week’s championship Monday at par-72 Spyglass Hill, posting a bogey-free 65. How much of a groove was McNealy in? The only time he flirted with bogey was when he had a 4-footer for par on the 16th hole.
“It was awesome,” McNealy said afterwards. “As firm and fast as it was, it was fun to play. It’s (Spyglass Hill) definitely back in my top 5 favorite courses.”
Having started on the back-nine, McNealy, who had his brother Dakota on the bag as caddie, closed out his round with four straight birdies on holes No.6 through No.9. He’s using this week’s championship as a tune-up for next week’s U.S. Amateur Championship at Olympia Fields.
“This is a driving course, has some tough par-3’s and had firm and difficult greens. That’s what the U.S. Amateur is all about,” McNealy said. “I drove the ball really well today. My game feels real good right now.”
Earlier in the day, McNealy got some other good news when he was named as one of the five early picks for this year’s U.S. Walker Cup squad. Also picked for the team was NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau, a native of Clovis. At the recent Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, McNealy, DeChambeau and Corey Pereira teamed up as the NCGA won the Morse Cup.
“It’s an honor to be named to the Walker Cup team. It’s nice for it to be official now,” McNealy said. “It makes next week a lot less stressful.”
Eight players–including defending champion Matthew Seramin of Meadow Club and Walker Huddy and Keelan Kilpatrick of Cal–were tied for second, five behind McNealy, after carding opening scores of 70. Seramin played in the same group as McNealy.
Granite Bay GC’s Gary Dunn, 2014 semifinalist Matt Cohn of San Francisco and 2015 Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year Justin Suh are among four players at six off the lead after shooting 71.
Following Tuesday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 32 advancing to match play.
July 31, 2015
Whoever ends up hoisting the trophy at the end of this year’s 112th NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship at par-72 Spyglass Hill Golf Course is going to have earned it.
The field for this year’s championship, which tees off Aug.10-14, is stacked.
Among those teeing off in the event will be Stanford junior Maverick McNealy, the No.3 ranked amateur on the planet.
Coming off a great showing at the recent Pacific Amateur Championship, McNealy was named the recipient of this year’s Haskins Award, which goes to the best collegiate player. Last month, he’d compete in both the PGA Tour Greenbrier Classic and Barbasol Championship, making the cut.
While McNealy is the biggest name, there are a slew of other players with big-time talent.
CSU-Monterey Bay senior Robby Salomon, who will enter the championship holding the No.1 spot in the NCGA Player of the Year points standings, has been on his own tear recently.
In early July, Salomon captured the annual NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship crown after putting together three solid rounds at Poppy Hills. A week later, he’d qualify for the U.S. Amateur and pick up another victory at the inaugural Bayonet/Black Horse Amateur.
Five other players who are in the Top 10 of the NCGA POY points standings are also in the field—Jason Anthony of Fairfield, Carmel’s Jerry Ledzinski, Nick Moore of Monterey, Ben Corfee of El Macero and San Jose’s Justin Suh.
Anthony, the runner-up in last year’s NCGA POY standings, finished fourth at the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship, while Ledzinski won this year’s NCGA Master Division Championship in June.
Moore captured the NCGA Public Links Championship in April, while Corfee won this year’s NCGA Four-Ball title playing with Scott Raber. Suh, a freshman-to-be at USC, won the recent Junior Tour of Northern California Tour Championship at Poppy Hills en route to earning JTNC Player of the Year honors for a record second time.
Some of the featured pairings for the first round of stroke play qualifying for the championship include:
- Brandon Baumgarten, Andy Nevin, Joshua McCarthy
- Robby Salomon, Jason Anthony, Jerry Ledzinski
- Maverick McNealy, Connor Lawrence, Matt Seramin
- Justin Suh, Ryan Knop, Brandon Wu
- Matt Cohn, Nick Moore, Jon Peterson
Last year, Seramin dramatically won the title, draining a tough 13-foot putt for birdie on the 36th hole to defeat No.1 seed Aaron Beverly, 1-up, in the finals.
Seramin’s putt completed a return from the brink. After the 17th hole of the morning round, Beverly had taken what appeared to be an insurmountable 5-up lead.
Both Monday and Tuesday’s action will consist of stroke play qualifying. Following Tuesday’s play, a cut will be made with the low 32 advancing to match play.
Wednesday’s play will feature both the first and second rounds of match play, while Thursday’s action will consist of the quarterfinals and semifinals. On Friday, it’s the 36-hole championship, set to start at 7 a.m.