Golf

Golfer Maverick McNealy's got a cool name. At Rex Open, he hopes to make the most of it.

Stanford golfer McNealy embraces Hogan Award, legacy

Stanford golfer Maverick McNealy, winner of the 2017 Ben Hogan Award, looks up to the namesake of the honor given annually to the top player in college golf. McNealy received the honor Monday night in Fort Worth. Video by Jimmy Burch
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Stanford golfer Maverick McNealy, winner of the 2017 Ben Hogan Award, looks up to the namesake of the honor given annually to the top player in college golf. McNealy received the honor Monday night in Fort Worth. Video by Jimmy Burch

The Rex Hospital Open is overflowing with young pros looking to make a name for themselves on the Web.com Tour.

Maverick McNealy has the name. A cool one. Sounds like a character out of a “Tin Cup” sequel, doesn’t it?

McNealy, 22, already has strong golf credentials. While at Stanford, he was a first-team All-America and the world’s No. 1 ranked amateur, winning every award worth having in college golf including the 2015 Haskins Award and 2017 Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s best player.

That’s Tiger-esque. The Haskins, college golf’s Heisman Trophy, was won by Stanford’s Tiger Woods in 1996.

The McNealy name also is well-known in business circles, especially in the Silicon Valley. Maverick’s father, Scott, was co-founder and longtime CEO of Sun Microsystems before the computer technology company was sold to Oracle in 2010 for, oh, more than $7 billion.

Which makes for an interesting twist to the Maverick McNealy story. Unlike so many college golfers aching to turn pro, McNealy wasn’t sure if wanted to play professional golf or go into business. Scott McNealy, in a 2016 Wall Street Journal story, said he didn’t know if golf was intellectually stimulating enough for his son and that a business career might be a more productive way to spend his life.

"If you are an entertainer, it's counterproductive from the standpoint that people stop doing anything and just sit and watch entertainers," Scott McNealy said in the WSJ story. "The guy serving you food at a golf tournament is in so many ways doing more good and moving the capitalist ball forward than Tiger Woods."

Maverick McNealy had all that weighing on him at one time but guess what? He’s playing pro golf, moving a golf ball. He’s a rookie on the Web.com Tour, moving from city to city and tour stop to tour stop, living the kind of life that his dad -- who played golf at Harvard -- once compared to being a traveling gypsy.

Rather than launching his own start-up company, McNealy has launched his pro golf career by making seven starts on the PGA Tour and six on the Web.com Tour. His best finish on either tour has been a tie for third in the Web.com’s United Leasing and Finance Championship in Newburgh, Ind., at the end of April.

“It’s been fun,” McNealy said. “I’ve been learning a lot every week. It’s been a lot more travel and a lot more golf than I played in college but I’m adjusting well and adjusting my preparation and getting better every week.

“It’s a lot of golf we play. Pro-ams and four days of competition and practice rounds. The weeks roll into each other and there’s not a lot of off time. It’s a lot of time on the golf course.”

McNealy’s comments came Friday, just after signing his scorecard for a second-round 66 in the Rex. It was also after he had double-bogeyed his final hole, turning a potential 63 or 64 into a 66 at TPC Wakefield Plantation, the kind of thing that can leave a golfer steaming.

But McNealy was composed. Approached by a tour official about making an appearance at a sponsors’ skybox by the 18th green, he did not beg off.

He followed up Saturday with a 2-under 69, leaving him at 8-under 205 and five shots out of the lead when he completed his round.

Oddly, McNealy said his first serious sports interest was hockey. He was a defenseman for the San Jose Junior Sharks, playing for seven years through his senior year of high school.

“I never really saw myself as a professional golfer, never thought this is what I’d end up doing,” he said. “But I had some awesome opportunities and I played better than I thought I ever would, and here I am.”

McNealy qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst and competed last year in the British Open. And Scott McNealy has caddied for his son from time to time.

For now, Maverick is trying to play his way to the PGA Tour but said there’s no urgency, no rush.

“Obviously that’s where everyone wants to be and you want to be there as quickly as possible, but if you get too caught up in that it’s not too helpful,” he said. “You just want to focus day by day and control what you can control and get better every week.”

Sounds like a sensible, almost business-like approach. Even Dad would probably agree.

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