The Maverick McNealy show was on again for No. 8 Stanford men’s golf, with the sophomore leading the Cardinal to second place in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional and qualifying them for a spot in the NCAA Finals.
Fresh off the heels of a historic performance in the Pac-12 Championships, McNealy again topped the field in Chapel Hill. The all-conference team selection hit 16 birdies that put him 9-under par for the weekend, enough to land him two strokes ahead of the closest competition.
Already considered amongst the best in collegiate men’s golf, McNealy now holds the top spot in virtually every individual ranking going into the biggest event of the year.
“I woke up today and felt great,” McNealy said after recording his lowest score on day two. “Everything was working and I putted great from the start. It wasn’t that pretty coming in, but I feel so much better today physically, and I got a lot of rest yesterday, and I think it’s the biggest difference.”
The formidable consistency that McNealy has developed in recent events was evident yet again, as he became one of just two individuals in the event to stay under par for each of the three rounds. This streak of strong showings has come at exactly the right time for McNealy, who is now a favorite to join former teammate Cameron Wilson and legends Tiger Woods and Sandy Tatum as the only Stanford golfers to capture NCAA individual titles.
We’re proud to grow champions on The Farm. pic.twitter.com/y6YYt1tKtZ
— Stanford Men’s Golf (@StanfordMGolf) May 16, 2015
Freshman Franklin Huang and sophomore Viraat Badhwar also contributed volumes to the Cardinal’s effort, each coming in at -1 to tie for 18th overall in the event.
Only becoming a regular in Stanford’s lineup after sophomore Jim Liu quit the team last fall, Hwang has been stealthily turning in better and better performances for the Cardinal and will likely be counted on to play a key role in the team’s championship effort.
Freshman Jeffery Swegle was fourth overall for the Cardinal with a score of +1 overall. Rounding out the effort was No. 86 junior David Boote, who was second to just McNealy on the second day of the event but struggled in the more blustery conditions of the opening and final rounds.
“We talked about playing boring golf,” head coach Conrad Ray said. “We [focused on] hitting a lot of greens and two-putting a lot and taking our birdie opportunities when we can get them.”
The combined team effort for Stanford landed the team behind just Charlotte in the competition. The 49ers were somewhat of a surprise champion, being just the eighth-highest ranked program in the tournament, but the team rode remarkable final-round performances from four of their players to put them them five strokes ahead of the field after being virtually tied with the Cardinal through two rounds.
Stanford did manage to topple No. 1 Florida State and two other top-25 programs en route to their second-place finish.
McNealy and the Cardinal will now begin preparing for their final event of the season, the NCAA Championships in Bradenton, Florida. Stanford will hope its recent strong form will carry the team to its first victory in the premier event of collegiate men’s golf since 2007.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.