Stanford's Maverick McNealy ready for life on PGA Tour
Last week, inside his new surroundings in Summerlin, Nevada, a recent college graduate faced his next challenge -- assembling furniture from IKEA.
"Everything in the apartment looks like a bomb went off," the 21-year-old said. "It's just been a logistical and instruction mayhem today, but I actually kind of enjoy it."
Maverick McNealy is unemployed at the moment.
That will change after this weekend, when the No. 2 men's golf amateur in the world will turn pro at the conclusion of the Walker Cup.
It's a decision the Portola Valley native announced Aug. 23 on GoStanford.com, exactly a year after a similar post explaining why he opted to return to Stanford as a senior.
"Honestly, I was surprised that people found it such an interesting story and that it got so much traction," McNealy said. "For me, I felt like I was just another college student that didn't know what he was going to do with his life."
The 6-foot-1 prodigy won the Jack Nicklaus Award as a sophomore at Stanford, then the Ben Hogan Award as a senior.
He finished tied with Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers with 11 career wins as a Cardinal.
Unwilling to commit either way, the management science and engineering major kept his options open for life after college by exploring opportunities in professional golf in order "to understand whether this is something I wanted to do, or not."
He added: "I had to start making some preparations, because it's not really something you can put together overnight."
To help put things into perspective, McNealy relied heavily on his father, Scott, who co-founded Sun Microsystems.
"My dad was probably the one I talked to the most -- he's the world's best devil's advocate," McNealy said.
At a preliminary Team Maverick meeting inside the Stanford clubhouse, McNealy gathered together his father and mother, swing coach Alex Murray out of Burlingame, and Stanford men's golf coach Conrad Ray.
The time was now.
"And my dad proceeded to lay out every reason why I shouldn't turn pro," McNealy said. "He makes very convincing arguments, so I walked out of that meeting with my world turned upside down thinking, 'Oh my God, what just happened?' But the only thing he wanted me to do, he didn't care which way I chose, he just wanted me to think fully and completely about it."
His career at Stanford ended with a tie for 76th at the NCAA championships, but by that point McNealy was fully committed to turn pro.
While meeting with potential agents and managers, the schedule this summer included prestigious appearances at the U.S. Open and British Open. He made the cut at a couple of PGA Tour stops -- the John Deere Classic and Barracuda Championship.
"I'm hitting it the best I've hit it in two years," said McNealy, who qualified for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst at the age of 18. "And my short game and putting are the best they've ever been."
He added: "I think the conditions and the competition in some of those professional events really pushed me. I learned a ton from that and it just makes the next step that much more comfortable for me."
Last month, he reached the match-play portion at the U.S. Amateur.
Then, it was time.
"It's funny, it was exactly a year ago on August 23rd that I wrote the huge 'Why' piece for GoStanford -- why I was coming back and why it was such an easy decision for me," McNealy said. "And I started going, 'Why not make it a year from there? And explain why I'm turning professional.'
"And for me, I think it reflected that I didn't want to make it a huge deal."
Several factors contributed to his relocation from the Bay Area to the western periphery of Las Vegas.
"The first reason is it's way more affordable than home is," McNealy said. "And it makes a lot of sense for a golfer because the winters are good. It seems everyone goes to either kind of somewhere in the Vegas area, Arizona, Texas or Florida.
"And it's a really easy flight to get back home to see my family, see my swing coach. ... I'm only 20 minutes from the airport, and Vegas International Airport has a flight to just about everywhere. It makes travel really easy throughout."
He can also invest in season tickets for the Las Vegas Raiders.
"More the Vegas Golden Knights, because I'm a hockey fan," said McNealy, a four-year captain with the San Jose Jr. Sharks.
The last order of business as an amateur is this weekend at Los Angeles Country Club, where the United States seeks to avenge a lopsided loss two years ago in the Walker Cup to the contingent from Great Britain and Ireland.
"It was a pretty stunning defeat for our side," said McNealy, who went 0-2-1 in his three matches at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in England. "We weren't really prepared to play that kind of golf. ... So we're looking to rebound and defend our home turf."
McNealy already secured exemptions to more than a handful PGA Tour events, with his pro debut at next month's Safeway Open in Napa.
That's followed by the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, which is barely 5 minutes from his apartment in Summerlin.
Then there's the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
"It will be really fun, because I've caddied for my dad in that even before," McNealy said. "I don't know who I want to make the cut more, me or me and him."
This fall, he will also attempt to qualify for the PGA Tour through the Web.com Tour Q-School.
"It feels like sometimes you just need that one round or that one tournament to really jumpstart things," said McNealy, who before worrying about any sort of branding or business interests remains focused on golf as his No. 1 priority. "And I'm trying to be as patient as possible, but I feel my game is really ready to break through."
As of Monday, he's got a job.
And the reality that life will never be the same has already sunk in.
"I think for one, walking into a completely empty apartment in Summerlin, Nevada, is the start of that," McNealy said. "But I'm really, really excited about it. At the end of the day, I get to play golf for a living, which is something I love to do. And the fact I get paid to do it is even cooler.
"Yeah, it will be a big change, but change is often very good, too."
This article is written by Vytas Mazeika from Palo Alto Daily News, Calif. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.