August 14, 2014
How Maverick McNealy Went From Good to Great: Putting, Hockey and Relaxing More
It was yet another sensational showing in what has been a year of great showings.
Stanford junior Maverick McNealy winning the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship wasn’t shocking. The way McNealy won the title, however, was.
Over his 123 holes combined at a tough Spyglass Hill course, McNealy went 32-under par. He’d have a stretch of 47 consecutive holes where he made par or better. In Monday’s opening stroke play qualifying round, he’d toss up a 7-under 65, the lowest competitive round ever at Spyglass Hill during an NCGA championship. 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.
Upon his arrival, the Management Science and Engineering major was the No.2 ranked amateur in the world, having been honored with both the Jack Nicklaus Award and Haskins Award as NCAA Player of the Year.
Among his other feats and accomplishments:
- Leading the nation with a 68.70 scoring average.
- Firing a bogey-free, course record 9-under 61 at the Pac-12 Championship to earn medalist honors and help Stanford capture their second straight conference title. The 61 matched Stanford’s 18-hole scoring record, previously achieved by Tiger Woods in 1996 and Cameron Wilson in 2012.
- Setting a record for the lowest 72-hole score in the Pac-12 Championship (18-under 262).
- Winning the NCAA Regional at Chapel Hill for his sixth victory of the season (most among NCAA Division I players).
- Playing with the big boys at the PGA Tour Greenbrier Classic and Barbasol Championship. In both events, he’d make the cut.
It’s all been quite a turnaround from what was a ho-hum 2014 season. Just a year ago, McNealy had a stroke average of 72.25 for the Cardinal. His best finish was fourth place at The Goodwin. He tied for 55th at the NCAA Championship and had zero wins.
So what was it that turned him from a good player into a great one in just a year?
For one, it’s his putting. This year, McNealy is 3 to 4 strokes better per round on the greens.
“Since the start of my freshman year I’ve sought to determine my weaknesses,” McNealy said. “My putting was the best example of that. I’ve now turned that into a strength, and it’s been a big difference.”
In working on improving his prowess on the greens, and everywhere else on the course for that matter, McNealy decided to drop his other love—hockey—to give golf his full attention. Last year, he was playing hockey six months out of the year. This year, as he puts it, “I’ve had a golf club in my hand every day.”
His time on the rink, however, has paid dividends on the links. According to McNealy, hockey has helped him raise his potential. It’s also been great as a cross-trainer for golf.
“Hockey has been great for my hand-eye coordination. My swing is like a slap shot,” McNealy said. “Hockey builds strength and stability. When you’re in skates you’re basically balancing on two knives. That builds strength and stability, which you need when you swing a golf club. I’ve also been fortunate to not have any injuries Hockey also builds a strong core on the body, and that in turn has protected my back.”
For McNealy, there’s also been a change mentally. He doesn’t look at practicing on his game as work. He looks forward to time on the range and playing simply because he loves the game.
The 2015 version of McNealy doesn’t think about what his score is. It’s all about relaxing and having fun.
“It’s all now more process oriented than results oriented,” he said. “I give 100% each shot, and the results are the results. That takes a lot of pressure off me.”