Sophomore Maverick McNealy led No. 15 Stanford men’s golf in an astounding comeback as they competed in The Prestige tournament in La Quinta, California this Monday through Wednesday.
McNealy was hot all week, shooting a few strokes under the par of 72 at the PGA West golf course in both of the opening two rounds. The No. 4 individual collegiate golfer proved particularly strong on the final day, however, shooting an almost inhuman 64 that was the best score of the tournament and the lowest single day round posted by all but eight players to ever play golf at Stanford.
“My game has felt really solid for a while, but I have really started to light it up coming down the stretch of our events — especially the last six holes at our last tournament, [the Amer Ari Invite] in Hawaii,” McNealy said after the event. “I tried to get in that mindset from the get-go today, and played possibly the best round of golf in my life … I absolutely stuffed irons all day and even hit the pin from 157 yards out on the ninth. I was happy with how I kept the pedal down during the whole round.”
McNealy took the individual medal at the tournament for the lowest three-day score, enough to move him up from No. 7 to No. 4 in Golfstat’s individual player rankings, and propelled the Cardinal into second place overall, three strokes behind Pac-12 rival Arizona State. Stanford won the last incarnation of this tournament but was expected to face more difficulty this year after losing stars like 2014 NCAA individual champion Cameron Wilson prior to this season.
The contest started out rough for the Cardinal, as a series of relatively uninspired performances left Stanford 10th out of 14 on the opening day of play. McNealy was the only one under par as others on the team appeared to be acclimating to the course. A stronger second day that included a team-leading 68 by freshman Franklin Huang moved the Cardinal up to seventh going into the final day, when McNealy, sophomore Viraat Badhwar and junior David Boote finally started turning it on.
Badhwar and Boote each narrowly trailed McNealy’s 64 on Wednesday, shooting a 66 and 67, respectively.
Freshman Jeffrey Swegle posted the final score that counted toward the Cardinal’s team performance, coming in slightly higher at 6-over par but posting his best round on Wednesday to add his own personal contribution to Stanford’s comeback effort.
“The guys came out of hibernation today,” head coach Conrad Ray remarked after the event. “We were excited about their rounds and they put the pedal down after a very good start. It was fun to get some momentum going and to post a number for Arizona State to look at. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but a very positive move by a young team today.”
“What I’m most proud of from today is how our team played,” McNealy added. “We fed off each others’ momentum. It got me going on eight to hear that Viraat [Badhwar] was 5-under and [David] Boote was 4-under. I’m really happy for the guys. We have been putting in great work and it’s starting to pay off. We’re going to take this momentum into our next event.”
Three other Stanford team members entered the tournament as individuals. Senior captain Patrick Grimes led this group with a 7-over par performance, followed by junior Dominick Francks at 9-over and freshman Bradley Knox at 16-over.
The Cardinal will have a couple weeks off before they head even further south to the Querencia Cabo Collegiate in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico from March 1-3. The tournament will pit Stanford against top-level competitors like Florida State and LSU and should give the Cardinal a chance to continue proving their worth as they search for their first team championship since 2007.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.