Hello from the 2020-2021 PGA Tour season!

September 2020 Update 

First things first, to business. With the conclusion of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, our 2019-2020 season has come to an end. This means it’s time to kick off Birdies for Education 3.0, raising money for Curriki during our 2020-2021 PGA Tour season! Again, I am going to pledge $50 for each birdie I make this season to Curriki, and I sure hope it gets more expensive this year!


If you would like to renew or increase your pledge for next season, please log into your account or click here. I will say that never has it been a more critical time for Curriki and our remote learning efforts, given the groundbreaking launch of CurrikiStudio and the uncertainty of in-person learning driven by the pandemic. So if you want to make a massive difference for students across the globe, need a tax write-off, like following PGA Tour golf, or just think my blog posts are entertaining, please sign up and tell your friends!! (I also deleted all social media, so Birdiesforeducation.com is really the only way to get the inside scoop!).


And again, thank you so much to everyone who has contributed over the past two seasons. I cannot begin to explain how crucial your support of Curriki has been in being able to develop and launch CurrikiStudio quickly at such an important time.

So far this season, I’ve made 74 birdies, and to date we’ve raised nearly $483k for Curriki!

Curriki has made exponential progress in the last year, and is driving the digital engagement efforts of well known institutions such as Teach for America, Arizona State University, the PGA Tour, and multiple state and local education departments. To find out more, check out www.curriki.org.

FedEx Cup Playoffs and Beyond
But now to golf! I just finished playing the first two events of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and our first event of the “wraparound” season, the Safeway Open… with a lengthy five-day off season between.


The first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs was The Northern Trust at TPC Boston, and there was a lot at stake. Entering the playoffs 58th in the FedEx Cup, I knew I had to make the cut at a minimum to guarantee berth into the BMW Championship (limited to the top 70 in the FEC). I got off to a great start on Thursday, with a red-hot putter carrying me inside the top 20. After a slow Friday, I dropped down to a tie for 47th, but comfortably made the cut by two shots. The weekend was more of the same, only picking up one shot despite one of my best putting tournaments of the year (I led the tournament in putting). But after a few tense hours watching the FedEx Cup rankings, I ended the event 67th in the FEC standings and hopped on a flight to Chicago!


The BMW at Olympia Fields was undoubtedly the highest-end event I have played as a member on the PGA Tour. The golf course hosted the 2003 US Open, and I won the Fighting Illini Invitational twice here in college, making it one of my favorites of all time. When we arrived, the rough was already 6” high, greens rock hard, and rolling well over 12. Round 1 was windy with a US Open-like setup, and the little mistakes I made were exacerbated. After an opening 77 (scoring was so difficult, it was the second-highest ever recorded field average in a regular Tour event), I played a great rest of the tournament at +1 for the remaining 54 holes and finished 40th, and in 68th in the final FedEx Cup standings.


All things considered, finishing the year 68th in points was a quietly solid rookie year. I am now fully exempt for the following year, meaning I will be able to play every single regular Tour event, and have a spot in Bay Hill, Memorial, and The PLAYERS. However, as it does every year, we start back at zero points and the race to the next FedEx Cup starts all over!


After five days off, I traveled to Napa for one of the strangest tournament weeks I have ever experienced. It was 113 degrees on Monday when I was tested for COVID; the smoke was so thick on Tuesday that the sun didn’t warm up the ground until 11am; and on Wednesday, the smoke layer above us was so thick that lights were needed on the putting green at 10am so that we could see! It was a disappointing week for me with the putter, though my ball striking made some minor improvements, and I missed the cut by one shot. But now I am back in Las Vegas preparing for a busy next stretch that could potentially include two tournaments in my home city!


I am also excited to help the PGA Tour launch its new Links to Learning campaign, in partnership with The First Tee, to extend our charitable impact in the education sector… and I am so excited that Curriki will be helping to drive their digital engagement initiatives there too!

Pass it on!
So please pass on the word about Birdies for Education, sign up again if you haven’t already, and let’s see how far we can go with it this year. As I mentioned before, there has never been a more critical time for Curriki and online education, and I am prepared to work harder than ever to make sure that high-quality educational materials are available to everyone, especially those who cannot attend schools and access equitable learning opportunities.


Thanks again!

Mav

Back to Golf at Colonial!

Hello everyone and welcome back to the PGA Tour season!

I am thrilled to get back on the golf course competing after a nearly three-month break, and the most time I had spent at home in one go since middle school. We were slated for the first event of the resumption at Colonial CC in Fort Worth, Texas. I had little clue what to expect, knowing there would be strict testing procedures and no fans, but nonetheless felt I had worked hard on my game and was ready to go.

Packing my suitcase for the first time in months was not the only thing that felt strange- the empty airports, 30-40 passengers on my flights, and ghostly empty hotels were my welcome back to Tour travel… and while wearing a mask for the duration of my travel was not exactly comfortable, I did appreciate the fact that most other travelers did so as well!

First-thing Monday morning, I reported to the Tour’s mobile testing center, where I got the nose-swab COVID test. Luckily for me, it was just uncomfortable… though I did not succeed in holding back the cough reflex that my test administrator warned me would come! Two hours later, I got my negative result back, and headed to the course.

Our cars were thoroughly sanitized at valet when we arrived, everyone’s temperature was checked before entering the grounds, every door handle and touch point had antiseptic pads on it, player dining was grab-and-go boxed food, and only people who had tested negative were allowed in the clubhouse. Equipment reps had to sanitize all golf clubs before we could use them, the putting green had raised cups, and even the shuttle carts were given a thorough disinfecting after each use. Caddies wiped down flagsticks and bunkers after we played the hole. Fist bumps and air high-fives replaced handshakes.  And the best news of all- I haven’t gotten my customary mid-spring cold!

All joking aside though, the PGA Tour has done a fantastic job of creating a very safe environment for the players, officials, caddies, volunteers, and Tour workers at every event. Plus, the heat, breeze, and plenty of open air of a golf course make it one of the safest places to be currently.

When the tournament started though, everything was business-as-usual, except for a moment of silence and reflection at 8:46am each morning to honor the death of George Floyd. I thought one of the coolest things that happened all week was seeing leading the tournament here at Colonial, while Joseph Bramlett finished runner-up on the Korn Ferry Tour. I am confident our game is in good hands with two individuals like them playing the way they did and being the thoughtful voices they are.

As far as my golf game went, I was definitely shaking off some competitive rust and getting back into the flow of tournament golf… I was faced with 110 yards to the toughest pin on the 9th green Friday morning, needing to get up and down to make the cut. I hit a great flighted gap wedge to 8 feet and drained the putt to advance to the weekend. My four round scores were 69-69-66-70, and I finished 32nd.

On the Curriki front, we are extremely excited to have released CurrikiStudio and CurrikiGo! CurrikiStudio is a free, open-source content authoring tool that allows teachers to create their own learning experiences, even with no technical knowledge. And the accompanying CurrikiGo runtime allows them to publish these learning assets anywhere they need to. The Curriki team has been working extremely hard to make these visions a reality over the last few months, and we couldn’t be more excited to offer this completely free and open resource to educators worldwide. Your contributions to Birdies for Education played a direct part in allowing us to put these together and get them done quickly.. so THANK YOU!!!

See you next week from Hilton Head,
Maverick

The Future of Learning – Today.

By Maverick McNealy

As you know, I created Birdies for Education to support Curriki.org, the education technology not-for-profit organization I’ve been working with for a decade.. In this historic time, education has come to the forefront of our lives in ways we could never have imagined. Many of you are parents, so you know first hand the impact of school closures and stay-at-home orders. I am in awe of the way parents and educators are banding together to make sure kids wdon’t miss a beat while at-home learning. I myself have spent a good portion of my time at home to learning the Korean language and brushing up on a few areas of educational interest. 

Curriki too, has stepped up to support K-12 students, their parents, and teachers —- helping them adapt to at-home learning. Check out the Virtual Learning Collections and share them with your friends and family.

Curriki’s future is burning bright 

Curriki has long been an innovator and change driver since they first championed O.E.R  (Open Education Resources) over a decade ago. Once again, they’re at the forefront of innovation, building a next-generation, open learning environment that will fundamentally change how learners engage with educational content and those who are creating these experiences. 

Just as companies like SquareSpace have removed the barriers to website creation and Anchor has brought podcasting to the masses, we are solving the pain points around building great learning experiences.  

Curriki is building the platform that will empower everyone — from individuals and non-profit organizations to entrepreneurs, and businesses — to share their expertise and create immersive, skills-based, and impactful learning experiences for this next generation..

Everything Curriki does, we do it for learning . Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your journey, Curriki is building a platform to solve the pain points around building great learning experiences.

I am proud of the work Curriki has done to support this transitional time for education, and am extremely excited about their path forward. This unfortunate shock will fundamentally change teaching and learning, and Curriki is going to be a significant driver to bringing eLearning and digital experiences to reality during this transformation. 

Once again, thank you all so much for your continued support. As we go, we will continue to update you with the attire we are making to bring our long-term vision to reality. In the meantime, check out www.curriki.org to see our new interface and explore some of our content!

I’ll be creating an instructional video series for Curriki, if you have a passion or talent to share please join us! contact@birdiesforeducation.com

Please support this vision with a donation through BirdiesforEducation.com

Thanks!!

Maverick

A Week with The King

Hello everyone!

I’m recapping a pretty special week every year on the PGA Tour schedule, the Arnold Palmer Invitational (which is very obviously presented by MasterCard ;). This was my first time back at Bay Hill since I played on the Arnold Palmer Cup exemption in 2016. As background, the Arnold Palmer Cup is a Ryder Cup-style match between the top collegiate players from the USA and the rest of the world. When the US team won in 2015, I was selected to represent our team at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Though I was pretty tired from a taxing week at Honda, I was so excited to be back and playing yet another golf course in major-Championship condition. I kept my practice brief, but enjoyed the excellent player dining and spent a little extra time on the golf course working on my short game. One of the coolest holes on tour is the par5 6th hole, a horseshoe hole around the pond. Though it is only 345 yards from the tee to the green (yes, I measured), it is a dangerous hole where you have to decide how much you want to bite off. Any score from 3 to 8 is possible here!

Another highlight of the week was drinking an Arnold Palmer tea on the first hole of my practice round. It just tasted right!

The first round I teed off feeling very comfortable and confident, and I was cruising at 2 under par until my 3w snap hooked left out of bounds on the last hole. It was a very uncharacteristic shot for me and especially for that club… and looking back on it the last “good” 3w I hit was on the 15th hole in Puerto Rico. I wonder if it broke then… anyways, I tripled the last hole to shoot a very disappointing 73.

I knew I needed a good round to make the cut on Friday, but the conditions were so difficult with winds and fast, firm greens, that hanging around par would be more than enough. I was playing solidly but made a few mistakes in the middle of my second 9. Knowing I needed to play my final two holes under par to make the cut, I made an incredible birdie on the 8th hole, but just missed an 8 footer for par on the 9th, ending my week short, as well as my streak of 11 consecutive cuts.

To me, I was still encouraged that with so many mistakes, I still had the game to make it to the weekend. I tested my 3w the following week and found that it was broken (very similar to my driver at the start of the season last fall), which could have cost me several shots over the last few weeks.

Shifting gears, a lot has happened in the last few weeks. I went to the Players Championship as 3rd alternate, only to practice for a few days and see the tournament cancelled after the first round. The earliest the PGA Tour schedule will resume is May 18th at the Charles Schwab Challenge, and I am hopeful that that is the case.

In the meantime, I am getting plenty of rest, working out, enjoying some time at home, playing board and card games with my roommates, and practicing as long as the golf courses here in Las Vegas stay open.

Curriki is in High-Demand

With schools closing down everywhere, educators and parents are flocking to Curriki for help with virtual learning. Suddenly, parents are in the position of facilitating learning for their children and teachers are forced to modify their lessons for virtual classes. This is an unprecedented time and it impacts kids the most. If you are a parent, grandparent, or teacher seeking great content to liven up the learning, go to https://www.curriki.org/oer/Curriki-Virtual-Learning-Resources and explore the FREE, awesome (fun!) videos, simulations, and more!

So I’m asking you to consider upping your pledge level per birdie, and to recruit others to join the cause. Not only has COVID-19 shortened the season, reducing the number of birdies I’ll be able to make, but the need for what Curriki is doing isn’t a “nice to have” anymore! It is a dire need that will be important for decades going forward given all the k12 schools and colleges moving to distance learning. And – Curriki doesn’t EVER charge teachers, parents, or students anything.

Ask your golfing buddies to visit Birdies for Education and make a pledge.

To bump up your pledge, go to “My Account” on Birdies for Education.

Thank you so much for your support of Birdies for Education, and please stay safe and healthy in this strange time.

All the best!
Maverick

Hello From PGA National in West Palm Beach!

The Honda Classic is one of the toughest tests of the year on the PGA Tour… it is most famous for holes 15-17, known as the Bear Trap (Jack Nicklaus is the course designer). As you can probably see by looking at these photos, it does not look like there is much room to hit it. Practically all you can see is water…

But to add on to the challenge, the greens were rock-hard, fast, and the wind blew strong every day. However, this style of play fit my game really well, and I worked hard to leave the ball in the correct spots to secure a par just about every hole.

This week I had a consistent pattern of playing my first few holes extremely well. I was under par early every day in a tournament where single-digits under par has won most years. I shot even par in my first round, which held up to t23rd place… and when I shot one-under par in the second round, I vaulted up to 15th place. I hit the ball nearly flawlessly in my first round, and the putter going going in the second for a brief period of time.

The third round, I again played very solidly and kept myself in position, but just couldn’t read the greens very well. They were a very fast, dormant Bermuda grass, and the gusting wind was making green reading very challenging. It felt like disaster was a possibility on every shot, with water and hazards everywhere tee to green, and treacherously fast greens. But I managed to hold it together for a one-over-par 71, and moved up to 14th place.

The final round again started off hot, 2 under par through four holes. However I kept missing fairways with my 3wood (two weeks later I would find out that its face had finally “caved” in after 6 years…), but managed with exceptional short game and a few lucky breaks to have 9 putts on the final 9 holes (even with a missed 6 footer for birdie on 18) and shot 1 under par.

One of my best pars of the week came on the 15th hole, with water right and wind gusting into off the right. I tried to hit a draw into the back left portion of the green, but the ball started dead left and went straight into the grandstands. It rattled off a railing, bumped into a fan, and stayed near her seat. After getting free relief to drop in the rough below the grandstand, I signed a glove and slipped in a $20 bill to get herself and her friends drinks- I hear it can help numb the bruising!! I chipped it to 20 feet and drained the par putt to keep the round going. 

This round moved me up to t11 for my second- best tournament as a professional!

And while the acres of water around the golf course are what stick out most in my mind as the toughest hazard, the local wildlife made it even more of a place to be avoided…

My caddy Travis and I hopped in the car after the round and drove to Orlando to prepare for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill… and needless to say, I slept well after what felt like a major-championship test!

Looking forward to week two of the “Florida Swing”…
Maverick