Monday, January 26, 2015

Meeting Tiger by Patrick Grimes

As a senior this year, I have conversed with many people about our program. We are fortunate enough here at Stanford that we have maintained a long legacy of golfing greatness for decades now, and I'm proud to be a part of it. Often times when I talk to people, the first question I get is "Oh, you play for Stanford? So have you met Tiger?" This fall, finally, was the time that I could answer that question with a resounding "yes," and get to share the incredible experience of spending a few days on the farm with my golfing hero.

Tiger's visit was rather spontaneous. It was only a few days before his arrival that we learned he would be on campus, and so all of us were extremely excited. When he got here, he showed up on the Siebel complex seeming very excited to meet all of us. He was extremely kind to everyone, interested to learn more about us personally, and eager to do all that he could to share his experience in a manner that would benefit us most. Needless to say, we took advantage of such an offer.

Our time was mostly spent around Tiger gathered in a circle, where we could fire off question after question, ranging from his practice regime to his mindset over a winning putt for a major championship. One question after the other was answered in a very deep and thoughtful way.

The highlight of the experience for me was during one of those conversations standing around on the range. We asked Tiger why he has gotten so much out of his game all of these years, and how he feels he has maintained such a high standard of excellence. Naturally, I assumed that there would be something in his thought process or his natural talent that would make his excellence seem intangible for the rest of us. However, his answer was so straightforward and simple that it was one of the most inspiring comments I've ever heard as a golfer. When asked about why he has been so good for so long, he said "Everyone is different. You just have to figure out what works for you in every single aspect of the game and do that, and keep getting better at it. Just be yourself." These aspects of the game ranged from how to swing, how to putt, how to manage a golf course, and even how much energy to have in competition. 

Prior to meeting him, my idolization of Tiger led me to believe that he had the magic recipe that maybe one day he would reveal. After interacting with him, I realized it is quite the opposite. I walked away knowing that if I know what works best for me, and I do that every day with commitment and passion, that I too will get the most out of my talent. It just so happens with Tiger that getting the most out of his talent means that he wins 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour events. But after all of that, the coolest part about his visit was that he left the farm making us all feel like we could do the same. After meeting him in person, I can't help but root for him more than I already did.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top 14 Moments of ’14 by Maverick McNealy

            2014 was a special year. A year ago I had just completed my first quarter at Stanford; now I am 1/3 of the way through college. Sure makes me feel old. To look back on just how much we were able to cram into 365 days, I have assembled my 14 favorite golf moments of the year, in chronological order. Enjoy!

1)  Our Hawaii Trip (and the annual “Race to Hawaii” qualifying trip)

            Our qualifying trip seemed like a vacation in itself, as we got to play Bayonet, Black Horse, and the Preserve to end the “Race to Hawaii." Then the trip itself seemed like a dream. We played the stunning Nanea Golf Club, caught some waves, and even had a par 3 shootout on the 275 yard 3rd hole at Mauna Kea (pictured). Oh yeah, we also played a tournament! (many thanks to the Grousbecks for their hospitality!)

2)  Palm Springs & the Father-Son Shootout

            The first inaugural Stanford Golf Father-Son Weekend was a blast. We took a day to play the Hideaway (where Patrick and Charlie Rodgers just barely eeked out a victory over the McNealys...) before the tournament at the PGA West Norman Course. It was a fun way to share my experience with my dad, who has been there for me every step of the way. This tournament also holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first time I broke par in a college event...

3)  The Goodwin

            Needless to say, it was a blast to compete on my home track. My years competing in the Men’s Club Championship paid off, as I also notched my best finish of the year, T-4th. The experience was only augmented by coach’s tribute to Coach Wally Goodwin, the phenomenal support from everyone who came out to watch, and yet another resounding team victory!

4) The Western at Pasatiempo

In the end, Mackenzie’s masterpiece is really not a bad place to Pasatiempo. For those counting at home, this was the third team win in a row! 

5)  Cypress Point
            Interesting observation: it is remarkably easy to wake up before dawn to play one of the greatest golf courses in the world. Just another pinch-me moment wearing the Stanford uniform... Many thanks to all of our wonderful hosts at CPC.

6) The PAC-12 Championships

            I will never forget the day we won the PAC-12 Championships. From the fastest fairways I have ever played (they were stimped above 7...), to an individual and team championship to end a 20 year drought, and a matching PAC-12 win from the Womens’ side, it is safe to say it was a good day for Stanford Golf!

7) The Patrick Rodgers Tournament 

Our annual trip to Olympic Club was phenomenal- perfect weather, perfect golf course, and great fun. Word on the street is that next spring it will be named the “Maverick McNealy Tournament”...

8) Nationals

            To this day, there is no tournament that I have wanted to win more than this one. Prairie Dunes was an unbelievable venue, and the live coverage on the Golf Channel was an added bonus. While it was a crushing defeat to OSU in the semis, we walked away with a 9 stroke margin in the stroke play portion, an individual champion in Cam Wilson, and experiences that sure have helped me grow as a player and as a person.

9) The US Open

            Not much justification is needed for this one. The golf course was HARD, and there were a lot of people. A few highlights were the lockers next to mine (McIlroy, Mickelson, McDowell), practice rounds with Jim Furyk, Boo Weekley and Cam Wilson, and a realistic shot at making the cut late Friday afternoon!

10) The Southwestern at North Ranch

            The final day at the Southwestern is the only day that can rival the euphoria of winning the PAC-12 Championship. I made 7 consecutive 3s to shoot a final round 66 and win my first college tournament- but even better was the across-the-board great play, blitzing the field to a 15 shot victory to start the year. Oh, and happy 21st Dom!

11) Olympia Fields

            OFCC North will go down as one of my favorite golf courses of all time- and it was yet another stern test, with 6” rough, tight fairways, bad weather, and 2003 US Open pins... Our team toughed it out to a 4th place finish, and 3 consecutive 71s landed me co-medalist.

12) The Nike Collegiate Invitational at Colonial

            Nike sure rolled out the red carpet treatment for 12 of their top programs- one day at the Nike Golf Oven and 3 days at Colonial. We left Fort Worth, Texas with some pretty cool memories... This was also a great showing for the Card, as we finished just a few short of another team victory.

13) Tiger’s Visit and V’s 59

            I’m not sure which one was cooler to witness, and
the two are inevitably tied together. Tiger was in town to induct Notah Begay into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame, and took the time to stop by our practice facility to hit a few balls. What ensued was a total of probably 12 hours of every single member of the Men’s and Women’s teams standing around Tiger, listening to him talk, asking questions, watching him stripe 6 irons and bomb drives. He was incredibly generous with his time, and we all learned a ton. But just to add to the legend, our very own Viraat Badhwar lit it up the following weekend in qualifying shooting a 59, breaking his own course record of 61. V, are you good?

14)  Walker Cup Practice Session

            It was an incredible honor to be invited to Captain Spider Miller’s practice session at Frederica in St. Simon’s Island, GA. I had a blast, learned a ton, and made new friends. Frederica must mean “picture perfect” in at least one language...

            It was sure difficult to pick only 14 moments from this year. However, I would also like to share a few Honorable Mentions that didn’t quite make the list, but surely will leave lasting memories:

-  Coach Ray’s Playoff Beard. Strong.

- The team dinner where David said “I’ve got a really bad dairy allergy...” Oh wait. That was every team dinner.

-  V losing a golf shoe at Olympia Fields. Location still unknown. Don’t even ask.

-  This elevator ride in Atlanta. For the record, 5 players, 2 coaches, 7 suitcases, 7 carry-ons and 5 golf bags in one medium-sized elevator.

- Watching Mr. Arrillaga’s bulldozers level the garden (the burial ground of many range balls) to expand our phenomenal practice facility.

-  Freshman Bradley Knox introducing himself to Dr. Condaleeza Rice... as Maverick.

-  V’s wipeout in Hawaii. At least he held the finish like a pro!

But in all seriousness, this list of experiences goes to show how special it is to be a part of the Stanford Men’s Golf program; we cannot thank our supporters, coaches, followers, fans, and everyone involved enough for all that they do for us. Not a day passes that I don’t think how fortunate we are to be a part of it, whether it’s biking through main quad on the way to class, getting a world-class education, or getting to play at the incredible places that we do. Thank you for making 2014 such a great year, and here’s to a spectacular 2015! Go Card!

~ Maverick McNealy