McNealy taking advantage at Greenbrier

By Cam Huffman
Published on

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- One Haskins Award winner from Stanford, Tiger Woods, has won 79 PGA Tour events and 14 major championships. Another, Patrick Rodgers, has a win under his belt and finished second at the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship in May.

So which Cardinal is going to come out on top this week at The Greenbrier Classic?

It could be option C.

Related: Greenbrier leaderboard | Round 3 photos

Maverick McNealy, who recently finished his sophomore year at Stanford, captured the 2015 Haskins Award -- the Heisman Trophy of collegiate golf -- in June, and the lone amateur left in the field entering Sunday's final round is taking advantage of the exemption that goes to the Haskins winner to play in just his second PGA Tour event, having missed the cut at the 2014 U.S. Open.

But the 19-year-old is playing like he's a Tour veteran.

McNealy's 2-under round of 68 Saturday, his third round in the 60s, brought him to 7-under for the tournament. He's one shot behind Rodgers and three in front of Woods.

"I got off to a little bit of of a slow start," said McNealy, a Portola Valley, California, native, of his third round, which included five birdies and three bogeys. "I scrambled through a bad spot on one and was fortunate to get up and down on two. But I ran into a good stretch in the middle of the round and birdied 10, 11 and 12. That got my round going. I thought it was a pretty solid round, and I got on a roll with the putter, which is good."

Good doesn't describe the experience McNealy has had this week, both on the course and off the course. He's been like a Packers fan on his first trip to Lambeau Field, trying to take in as much as possible of the experience.

"It's been unbelievable," he said. "This is the first real Tour event for me, and to play well makes it fun. But this place is incredible. The golf course is in great shape, and with this weather they've done an awesome job. The resort's like nothing I've ever seen before. I've had a blast.

"I've just been going 100 miles an hour trying to get everything in. The first night I got here I decided I would explore and walk around the resort. It took me 45 minutes, but I think I saw most of it. I went and saw a little bit of the (Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton) concert (Friday) night, which was pretty cool. There's no shortage of stuff to do."

Balancing The Greenbrier's amenities with the time on the course has been difficult for some -- Patrick Reed admitted earlier this week that he had a little too much fun on his first trip to The Greenbrier Classic in 2013 and didn't focus enough on his golf game -- but McNealy seems to have found the secret.

"I'm not short-changing the golf, at all," he said. "I'm making sure I'm rested and getting my practice in. But you always have a little bit of spare time. That spare time we can allocate to having some fun."

After an opening-round 67, McNealy was part of a roundtable discussion in The Greenbrier's Champions Room along with former Masters champion Trevor Immelman, six-time major champion Nick Faldo and another six-time major champion, Greenbrier golf pro emeritus Lee Trevino.

The group shared stories about West Virginia legends like Sam Snead and Bill Campbell, as well as other golf superstars like Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. McNealy provided his own contributions to the discussions, but he mostly tried to make himself a sponge, soaking in as much information as possible.

"It was just really cool," said McNealy, who said his game has taken some major strides in college after giving up ice hockey, which he played seven months out of the year before heading to Stanford. "Those guys have more golf stories than I can remember. It's really cool to see the guys you've heard about but never got a chance to see play. To see them here, it's really cool the legacy they've left and how they continue to pay it forward."

That's also the case at Stanford, a program which has produced the likes of those listed above, as well as Tom Watson, Notah Begay and Charlie Seaver. McNealy said he's learned a great deal from Rodgers -- who was a junior at Stanford when McNealy was a freshman -- during his career and is still picking up knowledge from his former teammate this week.

The two played a practice round on the Old White TPC prior to the tournament, and McNealy said that helped calm his nerves.

"I think I learned more by watching -- listening to the things he was saying and watching how he handled things," said McNealy, who explained he's never beaten his former teammate in a tournament. "It's really cool to be on the same page of the leaderboard as a guy I've looked up to and learned so much from. I've modeled a lot of parts of my game and my attitude after him, so it's really cool for me."

McNealy will tee off at 12:15 p.m. Sunday, playing with George McNeill. He's just four shots off the lead with 18 holes to play.

This article was written by Cam Huffman from The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.