College golf’s top player excited to mix it up with PGA TOUR players in Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
ORLANDO, Fla. (March 9, 2016) - Maverick McNealy, an All-American at Stanford University, has had a chance to rub elbows with the world’s top golfers on a couple of occasions, including in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina. He’ll get another shot next week when he visits Bay Hill Club & Lodge for the first time at the 38th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
To say that he is looking forward to it is an understatement.
“The game feels pretty solid, so I can’t wait,” McNealy said. “I got the chance to play in a couple of events last summer at The Greenbrier and the Barbasol Championship [he made the cut in both], so I’m pretty excited to get back out there. I’ve gotten a lot better at a lot of different things since then, so I’m really excited to see what that does for me against the best players in the world. This is a great opportunity for me, and I’m extremely thankful for it.”
McNealy isn’t the only standout amateur competing at Bay Hill’s Championship Course March 14-20. Former Southern Methodist University standout Bryson DeChambeau, who won the NCAA Division I golf championship and the U.S. Amateur last year, has accepted an exemption that traditionally is extended to the U.S. Amateur champion.
McNealy, 20, a junior at Stanford, is the first player to earn an exemption into the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard via his participation in the Arnold Palmer Cup. Last year, at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., McNealy went 2-2 to help the United States reclaim the Arnold Palmer Cup with an 18-12 victory and improve to 10-8-1 overall in the annual match play competition between collegiate golfers from the U.S. and Europe. The victory was sweetened by having a chance to meet Mr. Palmer, the seven-time major champion.
“That was pretty special,” McNealy said. “The thing you want to do, and what I said at the opening banquet, is to try and uphold the traditions of the game that Mr. Palmer represents and try to pay it forward.”
McNealy was chosen in a vote of his peers in last year’s Arnold Palmer Cup. The players selected a member from each team (excluding themselves) who they think best represents the “Arnold Palmer Legacy,” that is, the values that Arnold Palmer has exhibited during his legendary career. The top vote-getter from the winning team earned the exemption, which went to McNealy.
Last year McNealy was named the top collegiate golfer after leading NCAA Division I with six victories, including a dominating 10-stroke win in the PAC-12 Championship. His 69.05 stroke average last year was the second best in NCAA history. He has not seen the Championship Course at Bay Hill, but looks forward to taking on one of the great challenges on the PGA TOUR.
“It will be a learning experience for sure. That’s true every time I tee it up, but it’s especially true when you play in a PGA TOUR event,” McNealy said. “I’ll try to play the absolute best I can and just see where that takes me, whether that means getting in contention or making the cut. I do think my game is good enough to compete, but whatever happens, I’m just excited to get a chance to be out there.”
Matt Every, the two-time defending champion of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard, played in the Palmer Cup in 2004-05 and is one of 91 former Palmer Cup players who competes currently on the PGA TOUR or the European Tour. Other notable Palmer Cup participants include major champions Webb Simpson, Ben Curtis, Lucas Glover and Graeme McDowell, plus Rickie Fowler, Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Charles Howell III, Jonas Blixt, Russell Henley, Jonathan Byrd, Ryan Moore, Alejandro Canazares, Gonzalo Castano, J.B. Holmes, Richard Ramsey and Pablo Martin.
About the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
The Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard takes place March 14-20, 2016 at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge. In its 38th year, the tournament has become Central Florida’s signature sporting event and a highlight of the PGA TOUR. The event attracts the greatest names in golf and is overseen and directed by one of the game’s all-time greats, Arnold Palmer. Hertz is an associate sponsor of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. Proceeds from the tournament benefit Arnie's Army Charitable Foundation, which supports Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. For tickets and more information, please visit arnoldpalmerinvitational.com and to learn more about Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and its mission, please visit arniesarmy.org.