Story by Andy Zunz
ORLANDO, Fla. — M.J. Maguire saw firsthand what makes PGA Tour players the best in the world at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That knowledge will come in handy, as Maguire plans to turn pro after the conclusion of the event.
Maguire, who played for North Florida for the past 3 1/2 seasons, said that he recently left the team. Heading into the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational Feb. 24-26, UNF head coach Scott Schroeder said that the 22-year-old was suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team."
Regardless of his standing on the team, Maguire was invited to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational as a result of his victory at the 2014 Southern Amateur. He will miss the cut in his first PGA Tour event, but improved on Friday with a 1-under 71 after opening with a 75.
"I'm trying to see what these guys do better than I do and clean up the small stuff," Maguire said. "I know it's cliche, but 100 yards in and these guys are dialed in. I'm not. My distance control was just not there this week.
"But overall, it was an awesome experience."
Maguire improved in nearly every statistical category Friday in a round that included four birdies. He played the back nine at Bay Hill in 3-under 33, but a double bogey on his final hole, No. 9, put him out of reach of the cut line.
"I know I can hit the ball when I'm striping it, but it's a matter of finding a way to improve around the greens and dial in the short game," Maguire said.
The St. Petersburg, Fla., native was followed by a group of high school and college friends and his parents. His brother Jack, a sophomore at Florida State, planned to make it down for the final round Sunday if M.J. would have made the cut.
Maguire hopes to try and Monday-qualify for Web.com Tour events until he can achieve standing as a professional. Maguire, who is No. 34 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, is not sure where he will tee it up next, as he is working on a sport management degree at UNF.
The loss of a senior – especially one who led the team in scoring average through the first seven events of the season – would be a blow to any team this late in the season. But the Ospreys have fared well in two events without Maguire, taking second at the Hayt and first at the General Hackler Championship.