Sports


McNealy completes championship golf run at Spyglass Hill

 

Stanford junior Maverick McNealy, the world's No. 2 ranked amateur, completed a dazzling week of golf at Spyglass Hill by winning the Match Play Championships on Friday with a 6 and 5 victory over seventh-seeded Matt Cohn, a 34-year-old tutor and college admissions consultant.

The top-seeded McNealy, who represented Sharon Heights, now heads to the U.S. Amateur, which begins Monday at Olympia Fields Golf Club in Illinois.

The NCAA Player of the Year, McNealy set records for low round (65) and best two-round score (136) during stroke play.

He carried that momentum into match play, clinching wins in each of his first four head-to-head matches without needing to play the full 18 holes.

It was more of the same in the 36-hole final.

McNealy's plan was to use the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship as a warm up for next week's U.S. Amateur.

Nice warm up. He walked away with yet another trophy in the process.

McNealy lived up to expectations.

"Spyglass Hill is a course I've played many times as a kid and I've played many tournaments here," McNealy said. "To come out as the champion is pretty neat."

Over the 123 holes he played, McNealy went 32-under. He played 83 straight holes at par or better at one point.

"There are great conditions for me to prep for the U.S. Amateur. The course was as fast and firm as I've ever seen it," McNealy said. "You had to be cognizant where you were landing it on the greens. I think I accomplished what I wanted to do in respect to preparing for next week."

McNealy also found himself getting tested by the No.7 seeded Cohn, who took a 1-up lead over the heavy favorite twice within the first six holes with birdies.

"I actually felt more calm playing Mav, at least early on," Cohn said. "But that's probably because I knew it was a 36-hole match."

Both leads only lasted a hole, though Cohn was never far off. With a birdie on the 14th, he'd cut a McNealy 2-up lead back to just 1-up.

The big difference in the morning round would be a McNealy birdie on the 17th and a Cohn bogey on the 18th that gave McNealy a 3-up lead at the break.

"On the 17th we almost had the exact same putt. He made his and I missed," Cohn said. "You make a handful of mistakes…that's the difference of playing someone of his caliber. It's one swing here or one misread putt there. The little things compound when you're facing a guy not making those mistakes."

In the afternoon portion, McNealy kept applying the heat. He'd build his lead to 4-up, but Cohn would not go away thanks primarily to some fantastic play around the greens.

On the par-4 22nd hole, McNealy made a terrific up-and-down for birdie from the greenside bunker. Cohn matched him with a brilliant wedge shot from off the green for birdie.

"It wasn't an easy match. It was bloody. It was a difficult match for me psychologically," McNealy said. "I'd be in control and he'd make a miraculous, unbelievable up-and-down. His short game was great. I had to refocus and try to make birdies and pars … whatever it took."

Continuously pushed, on the 29th hole (the par-5 11th), McNealy finally gained a 4-up lead by making a routine eagle. After that, Cohn ran out of magic. McNealy would seal the victory with pars on the 30th and 31st holes.

Despite the loss, for Cohn it was a day he'll never forget.

"It was so much fun," Cohn said. "It was exactly what I thought it would be. I played well most of the day and he played better. Through 29 holes I was 2-under and four down and he wasn't even playing his best."

For McNealy, it's now all about next week's U.S. Amateur. He'll head to Olympia Fields looking to become the first Northern California player to win the U.S. Amateur since Ricky Barnes in 2002.

"I'd love to bring that trophy back to NorCal," he said.

— ncga.com/Palo Alto Online Sports

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