U.S. AMATEUR
McNealy Weighs Future as He Plots U.S. Amateur Strategy August 14, 2016 | Bloomfield Township, Mich. By Pete Kowalski, USGA

Maverick McNealy, a member of the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team, will arrive at Oakland Hills as the world's No. 1 amateur. (USGA/Chris Keane) 

U.S. Amateur Home

As he prepares for the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship, the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ has a lot on his mind.

Maverick McNealy has golf skills that have garnered All-America honors, the Haskins and Nicklaus Awards and a place on the USA Walker Cup Team in 2015. As a result, the 20-year-old Stanford University junior is often asked, “When are you turning pro?”

Before answering, McNealy, a management science and engineering major with a concentration in finance and decision analysis, takes a calculated approach, just as he does on the golf course.

The reply is not definitive but he isn’t avoiding an answer. He simply realizes that too much is involved to be specific.

“I’m really blessed, at Stanford, to have two very awesome opportunities,” said McNealy, who grew up in Portola Valley, Calif. “I have the chance to get a world-class education and a chance to play on one of the best golf teams in the country. To be honest, I don’t know what I want to do come next year. I do think I will be making a decision on that sometime over winter break… but at this point I am just going to be working on getting my degree and learning things that I feel like are going to be valuable in the classroom and playing high-level golf.”

McNealy, who has won 10 college tournaments in two years at Stanford, has played well in USGA championships. He advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2015 U.S. Amateur before losing to eventual champion Bryson DeChambeau, and also qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. He has all of the competitive “chops” to consider the professional ranks; he just doesn’t see it as his only option.

“To me, one of the most motivating things in golf is getting better and that’s a huge challenge, playing professional golf,” McNealy said. “I am also looking forward to other opportunities after golf. I don’t know if one of my best friends from school can have a really cool idea that’s really interesting and a lot of possibilities that could be good. I might want to join that company after school.”

Regarding his decision, McNealy depends on his classroom experience to assist: “My major is basically taking a bunch of tools from a bunch of different backgrounds to make effective decisions.

“To be honest, it is coming in useful for one of the biggest decisions of what I am going to do with the rest of my life,” McNealy said.

But before that decision comes the most important amateur championship in the world at Oakland Hills Country Club, a place where McNealy is very eager to compete. His father, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, is a Detroit native with intimate knowledge of the Donald Ross-designed South and North courses. The elder McNealy will be on his son’s bag, so when it comes to the flavor of Oakland Hills and the Detroit area, the younger McNealy will be listening closely to his caddie.

“We’re no strangers to the history of the place and I’m really excited to get out there and play it for real, play it myself, and I’ll be interested to see what he thinks has changed and what he thinks is different since he’s played it,” said Maverick.

“My dad grew up in Michigan…so, he is definitely excited to go back home and show me around his hometown, which should be really cool.”

For the world’s top amateur, this year’s championship is shaping up as an opportunity to add to his résumé, which could make that decision about his future just a little bit harder.

Pete Kowalski is the USGA’s director of championship communications. Email him at pkowalski@usga.org.