Spring Swing, Part 1: Hilton Head and NOLA

Hello from mid-season on the PGA Tour! A lot has happened since the Florida swing, so I thought to break it up into two chunks, the first being my two-week trip from Hilton Head Island to New Orleans.

Coming off a very productive three-week break, where I have never practiced harder, worked out more diligently (7am, 4 times a week at Greathouse PT!), eaten healthier, and felt better about my game, I was itching to get back to competition at Harbour Town. The course was very different from how we saw it last summer, as the grainy Bermuda grass was overseeded, firm and fast this time around.

I got off to a slowish start, mostly struggling with a cold putter en route to an even-par 71. The putter was stubborn until I adjusted my eyeline on the 6th hole of my Friday round (I was looking a fraction too far right), and made four great birdies in a row to close out my first 9. I carried this momentum with the putter into a pair of 67s on the weekend that vaulted me into 10th after the 3rd round, and finished in a tie for 4th after the final round.

I was extremely encouraged by my ball striking–it was the first time in a while that I had gained strokes tee-to-green, and that combined with a putter that finally woke up resulted in my second top-5 of the season! I’m also finding that golf courses that require accurate driving and penalize certain misses around the green suit my game (Pebble Beach, and Mayakoba to name a few others).

Maverick McNealy sticks wedge close and birdies at RBC Heritage

The following week was the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, an event I had been looking forward to all year for the team aspect. I was paired with my roommate from home in Vegas, Joseph Bramlett, and our third roommate Chris was planning to spend the weekend cheering on the rest of the apartment crew! 

The golf course was an interesting Pete Dye design (as was Harbour Town), and included both the smallest bunker I’ve ever seen and possibly the largest gator I’ve seen! Safe to say I gave that big guy a nice wide berth.

In the first round, which was best-ball (meaning we both play our own balls and take the best score of our two for the hole), Joseph and I struggled with offense, only making a few birdies. We didn’t “ham and egg” it very well, making the same score on just about every hole- not the optimal outcome for best ball. Neither of us played particularly poorly, but just didn’t hole a few important putts that day.

In the second round, which was alternate shot (a much more difficult format), we shot a very solid round of -2, but at the last minute the cut line moved to -6, meaning we missed playing the weekend by one shot. I was very proud of our efforts that day, even down to the last 70 footer for eagle that I just missed on the high side on the 18th hole. 

While we were gutted to not be playing the weekend, we certainly made the most of our few days as a (fully vaccinated!) apartment crew in New Orleans. As you already know, food tourism is one of my hobbies, and NOLA did not disappoint. Quite possibly the best meal of my life came from Tchefuncte’s, which was a 45 minute drive over the longest bridge over a continuous body of water (Lake Ponchartrain)… I don’t think I’ve ever left a meal more full than I was that night. Many thanks to Chef Michael Gottleib for an amazing experience. We went to Cafe du Monde to try their world-famous beignets, toured the National WWII museum, took a stroll down Bourbon Street, had dinner at Galatoire’s (as I said, the NOLA food did not disappoint!!), and made one more trip back to Tchefuncte’s for their Sunday brunch before heading to the airport. Usually I lose a few pounds each tournament, but I’m positive I went the other direction this week.

Joseph went on the following week to the Valspar in Tampa, and Chris and I flew home to Vegas for another week of working out, practicing, and prepping for the next few events!

More to come…

Best,
Maverick

Hello everyone!

I’m checking in from Las Vegas, taking three weeks off after playing seven out of nine weeks to start the year. It was definitely a whirlwind of ups and downs, and some of the lowest lows and highest highs I’ve encountered as a professional. If you had told me that I would have only one finish inside the top 45 and was going to miss four cuts, I would have anticipated a disastrous first quarter. However, if you had told me that I would be leaving Florida with nearly 500 FedEx Cup points, I would have thought it was wildly successful. Luckily for me, the PGA Tour rewards high finishes, and I did just that at the AT&T Pebble Beach.

The season started out very auspiciously, as on the Nicklaus Tournament course at PGA West, I began my first seven holes of the season 6 under par, including an eagle on the 5th hole with an 8i from 177yds. After that, I cooled substantially, and really struggled on the difficult Stadium course, finishing last of those who had made the cut. This was a first in my professional career as well!

The following week at Torrey Pines, I battled with another bout of a cold putter, and missed the cut there by a few shots as well.

After a week off in Las Vegas, I returned to Pebble Beach where I had my previous best ever finish on the PGA Tour, an exciting t5th after a great 68 in the wind on Sunday. I got off to a very solid start, and was hanging around the top 10 all week despite, again, a quiet week with the putter. However, after a very soft bogey on the opening hole on Sunday, I adopted a much more aggressive mindset. I didn’t take on undue risk, but played more aggressively to the spots I wanted to. This spring boarded me to birdie the second, sixth, and seventh holes. After making the turn, I was finally rewarded with the hot 9 holes of putting I was waiting for, making birdies on 11, 12, 13, and 15. And the two shots I hit on the 18th hole to lead to a near-eagle and 2putt birdie were two of the best I’ve hit under pressure in my life. While I fell two shots short of the win, the solo second-place finish and back-nine 31 vaulted me inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup for the first time ever.

However, I think the real reason my putter heated up was because I finally paid my caddy Travis the $20 I owed him. Back story, we always bet a few dollars here and there during practice rounds and pro-ams to keep me engaged. I owe him $3 for every bogey, and he owes me $2 for every birdie. Two in a row doubles, three triples,etc. And when either of us reaches $20 of debt, we have to pay the other. Long story short, I got fleeced in the practice round on Wednesday, and ended up owing Travis $21. The week got going quickly, and our bets were placed on the back burner for now.

But walking down the hill to the famous seventh green at Pebble on Sunday, I was lamenting how putts just didn’t seem to want to drop in for me. I thought I needed something to change my fortune. So on that two minute walk, I calculated how much I owed Travis from the practice round, and realized I owed him a fresh $20 bill ASAP. He put the bag down by the green, I reached into the bag and shoved a fresh $20 into his caddie bib. I proceeded to drill a 35 foot birdie putt into the back of the hole at firm speed, smiled, and told Travis that I was never going to play golf owing him money again.

In all seriousness, I was so excited to perform under pressure on Sunday the way I did, and learned so much about how to manage my own tendencies and use the adrenaline and excitement to my advantage coming down the stretch. In the following highlights link, you tell by the big smile on my face, I was having a blast.

Maverick McNealy’s Round 4 Highlights from AT&T Pebble Beach

The rest of the weeks were largely forgettable from a golf standpoint- I missed a 20 footer on the last hole in Los Angeles to miss the cut by one shot, finished 46th at Bay Hill, and missed the cut by a lot at both Players and Honda. I continued to struggle with the putter, and adding poor iron play to the mix did not help my cause. The bright spot was after a disastrous start on my first 8 holes at Honda, I played the remaining 28 holes in 3 under par (which would have placed me inside the top 20). One of the highlights of the Players Championship week was to see the new PGA Tour Headquarters building in Ponte Vedra–it was only a few hundred yards from the famous island green! It is one of the coolest office buildings I have ever seen, and a beautiful home for the FedEx Cup!

I am now in the middle of three weeks off before I head to Hilton Head and New Orleans for Zurich. I am spending a lot of time in the gym at Greathouse Physical Therapy, taking advantage of my off time to “prehab” different areas of my body and build strength and athleticism. I am also spending a lot of time on my favorite “putting carpet”, the ugly plaid rug that I have putted on since high school to work on alignment and roll, and have seen huge improvements in my putting stroke.

Looking forward, I am very excited to play Hilton Head (which will be different this year over seeded versus entirely Bermuda), and even more-so, playing the Zurich Classic with my partner and roommate Joseph Bramlett. For those that don’t know, the Zurich is a team event that combines alternate shot and best ball formats, and Team Mav and Bram is going to have a great week!

What we’ve been working on at Curriki:

Our main focuses remain building upon our existing product CurrikiStudio, and even more importantly raising awareness of and assisting with its integration into groups that can use it. Over 5,000 organizations are now using CurrikiStudio, headlined by our recently launched programs with the PGA Tour, LA Opera, Teach for America, social-emotional learning startup Vivensity, civics curriculum Civicate, and Arizona State University. There are also three states with which Curriki is also working on implementations, giving us the potential reach of over 1M students next year.

On the product side, CurrikiStudio has released new functionality to allow teams of educators to collaborate on building interactive playlists, which was the most requested feature since launch. We are also actively building new features like virtual whiteboards, video conferencing, and peer-to-peer chat.

Due to Curriki’s growth and unique approach to education innovation, Larry Ellison donated $5M to continue to expand our mission and impact on learning. Thank you all for your generous contributions to Birdies for Education – it is commitment from this community that is vital to the ongoing efforts of Curriki’s mission.

It is so fun for me to know that $266 is being pledged every birdie I make, and I can’t wait to make some more.

Please continue to pass the BirdiesForEducation site along to your family, friends, and anyone else interested in golf and education– just $1 per birdie means the world to us, and is a fun way to follow along with our PGA Tour season!

Thanks again, Maverick

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