PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. All eyes were on NCAA Player of the Year Maverick McNealy during Monday’s opening round of this week’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship.
He didn’t disappoint.
The Stanford junior, who’s the No.3 ranked amateur in the world, took the first round lead in the stroke play qualifying portion of this week’s championship Monday at par-72 Spyglass Hill, posting a bogey-free 65. How much of a groove was McNealy in? The only time he flirted with bogey was when he had a 4-footer for par on the 16th hole.
“It was awesome,” McNealy said afterwards. “As firm and fast as it was, it was fun to play. It’s (Spyglass Hill) definitely back in my top 5 favorite courses.”
Having started on the back-nine, McNealy, who had his brother Dakota on the bag as caddie, closed out his round with four straight birdies on holes No.6 through No.9. He’s using this week’s championship as a tune-up for next week’s U.S. Amateur Championship at Olympia Fields.
“This is a driving course, has some tough par-3′s and had firm and difficult greens. That’s what the U.S. Amateur is all about,” McNealy said. “I drove the ball really well today. My game feels real good right now.”
Earlier in the day, McNealy got some other good news when he was named as one of the five early picks for this year’s U.S. Walker Cup squad. Also picked for the team was NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau, a native of Clovis. At the recent Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, McNealy, DeChambeau and Corey Pereira teamed up as the NCGA won the Morse Cup.
“It’s an honor to be named to the Walker Cup team. It’s nice for it to be official now,” McNealy said. “It makes next week a lot less stressful.”
Eight players, including defending champion Matthew Seramin of Meadow Club and Walker Huddy and Keelan Kilpatrick of Cal, were tied for second, five behind McNealy, after carding opening scores of 70. Seramin played in the same group as McNealy.
Granite Bay GC’s Gary Dunn, 2014 semifinalist Matt Cohn of San Francisco and 2015 Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year Justin Suh are among four players at six off the lead after shooting 71.
Following Tuesday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 32 advancing to match play.