Though their collegiate slate ended a few weeks ago, members of the Stanford men’s golf team are still in action this week at an event that eclipses even the NCAA championships: the 114th US Open. Graduating senior Cameron Wilson and freshman Maverick McNealy form the Cardinal’s contingent at Pinehurst No. 2. Both players are well back in the pack, with McNealy turning in a 4-over 74 on the unforgiving course, and teammate Wilson carding an 8-over 78.
For Wilson, the U.S. Open is his first event since collecting the third individual national title in program history at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas, on May 26. However, Wilson did not automatically qualify for the U.S. Open at his regional tournament, entering the field at Pinehurst via an exemption from the U.S. Golf Association. His current fourth place position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), coupled with his narrow playoff victory at the NCAAs, likely gave Wilson’s already strong résumé a boost in the eyes of the selection group. Wilson will soon be removed from the WAGR, as he plans to enter his first tournament as a professional at next week’s Travelers Championships at TPC River Highlands in his home state of Connecticut.
This is the second U.S. Open for the Ben Hogan Award Finalist and the 2014 PING First Team All-American, who also appeared at the 2012 iteration of the event when it was held at Olympic Club in San Francisco. While Wilson certainly hopes he can make it to the weekend this time around — he missed the cut in 2012 with scores of 77-77 — he’ll need something miraculous to make up for his opening round 78. Wilson never found his rhythm Thursday, bogeying his first two holes and bogeying five of six to start the back nine.
McNealy’s U.S. Open debut started well, as the rising sophomore was 1-under through seven holes after a birdie on the par-4 13th. However, he stumbled and fell back in the middle of his round, finding himself at 5-over going into the last hole —the short par-3 9th. An excellent tee shot set up a birdie attempt, and the Bay Area native coolly sank the putt to move to 4-over.
The event is obviously special for McNealy because of the name and legacy of the tournament, but it is also a family affair: his father, Scott, is caddying for Maverick at Pinehurst. The elder McNealy is well-known as the former CEO of Sun Microsystems and the current Chairman of the social media company Wayin.
Maverick’s performance at Pinehurst could be indicative of what lies ahead for the Stanford men’s golf team: with Wilson and junior Patrick Rodgers gone, McNealy is likely to be one of head coach Conrad Ray’s on-course leaders during the 2014-15 campaign. He showed flashes of potential during the middle of the spring season, recording top-10 finishes at The Goodwin, Western Intercollegiate and Pac-12 Championships — each time filling the third slot behind Rodgers and Wilson. His play during the upcoming collegiate season figures to be an integral factor in determining whether the Cardinal can remain in the upper echelon of the NCAA golf world.
Friday’s second round will see Wilson tee-off in the second afternoon group at 9:30 a.m. PST on the 10th hole, with McNealy slated to start at 11:31 a.m. on the 1st hole. Live coverage will be provided by ESPN and The Golf Channel, and the action at Pinehurst can be followed online at http://www.usopen.com/en_US/index.html.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 “at” stanford.edu