Summer Lakes!

Hello from Minnesota, the second-to-last scheduled regular season event for me! I had been looking forward to this tournament for a while, as our family would vacation at Fair Hills Resort in Detroit Lakes, MI for a golf-and-lake-filled week every summer. Two highlights of this week were the annual closest to the pin contest (where you got free ice cream if you beat the pro) and speed golf, which consisted of running 9 holes as fast as possible with one club. Though I had never played TPC Twin Cities, I already had a stockpile of “competitive” golf memories in the land of 10,000 lakes!

The tournament got off to an inauspicious start- I woke up Thursday morning with some type of food poisoning, and was +2 thru 3 holes. But a combination of great driving and an improved wedge system (essentially 3 different swings with each wedge), as well as a more settled stomach, I brought the score back to even par by hole 6 and birdied the 7th. A four under par back nine put me into a tie for 10th after the first day. 

The second day had plenty of fireworks as well… another 67 put me in a tie for 7th, despite a one-shot penalty for stepping on my own ball in the fairway. This was my third penalty for inadvertently moving my ball this season (R3 at Pebble, R4 at John Deere), but I was a tad distracted by a playing partner snapping his wedge over his knee to be fully aware of how many steps I had taken towards my golf ball. I looked down at my yardage book to get the number, and felt my foot kick my ball about two feet. Nice.

A 68 in the third round, highlighted by a chip-in on the 14th hole, vaulted me into a tie for 2nd place and a spot in the second-to-last group on Sunday. While Sunday wasn’t my best (+2) due to one of my worst putting rounds of the year, I took a lot of confidence away from the improvements I had seen in my short irons. I was able to knock down and take spin off my wedges which opened up all of the back pins to me, and I was one good putting day away from my first win. Lots of positives!

I also made a trip to Mall of America, the scale of which is hard to describe. For reference, it made the neighboring IKEA look like a Starbucks drive-thru… 

One week later, I made my way to my favorite lake in the world, Lake Tahoe, for the Barracuda championship. I started the week with one of the most fun rounds of golf of my life- two 4somes (which eventually turned into an 8some due to slower groups ahead) with my brothers, roommates, and other friends at the Incline Village Mountain Course… I shot a very cruisy -9, which served as a great reminder that the best golf is often played when you are having fun and grateful to be where you are…and we finished the afternoon off with a bonfire and s’mores. The best 19th hole!

In similar fashion to the previous year, I scored 9 points in each of the first three rounds in the stableford format. Also like last year, I followed each round with a cold plunge in Lake Tahoe (though he water levels were so low this year that the lake was at record warm temperatures!). Unfortunately the weather went from beautiful to unbelievably smoky overnight with a wind change, and the AQI was 500+ for our second round. I must say it was the worst I’ve felt on the golf course- I felt like I had a sore throat by the 5th hole. The final round was again slightly disappointing, only scoring 5 points, again a slow day with the putter. 

The good news is that with these two top-20 finishes, I clinched my spot in the top 70 of the FedEx Cup and a tee time at the BMW! One week off, and then off to New Jersey for the Playoffs!Thank you for your continued support! We will be sending out the Birdies Season 3 update in the next week or two. Please visit www.BirdiesForEducation.com when you have a chance for updates on your donations status, the season, and, if you haven’t done so already, please sign up for “Birdies Season 4”. This year we are converting the Birdies program to follow the calendar year so participants can plan their year-end giving. Birdies 4 will cover September 2021-December 2022. 

Best,
Maverick

Spring Swing, Part 2: Charlotte, Kiawah, Colonial

Hello again from the second leg of the Spring Swing!
We started in Charlotte at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. This was a heck of a golf course–long, challenging, and in pristine condition… despite the fact that they closed right after our tournament for over a year to renovate it in advance of the Presidents Cup two years out. If the crowds during this week were any indication, that is shaping up to be a wild week.

This was a bit of an unfortunate week as far as the “draw” was concerned. Each week, you either play early on Thursday and late on Friday, or late Thursday and early Friday. Usually the order does not matter too much, but this week the “early/late” draw was the 8th highest discrepancy in scoring (nearly 3 shots!), and I was on the wrong side of it. We had a cool and breezy Thursday morning, where I shot 72 and was in 73rd place. The wind died in the afternoon and the temperature warmed up nicely, and the following morning that same other half of the field enjoyed a calm morning before winds gusting near 40mph picked up in the afternoon. I remember driving the ball in the green side bunker on the 8th hole (after a 380yd drive downwind on the 7th) and watching the flagstick bend almost 90 degrees as a particularly strong gust came through. This was also the week where Bryson Dechambeau finished his round Friday morning and flew home thinking he missed the cut, only to realize that afternoon scores were so high that he made the cut on the number and had to fly back to play the weekend! Unfortunately I shot 74 and missed the cut by two shots, but felt I played much better than that result.
The trend of windy conditions continued the following week at Kiawah Island, the site of my first major championship as a professional. With the prevailing wind, the home stretch of 14-18 was one of the most difficult I had ever played. In the practice rounds, once you made the turn back into the wind, we faced:14: 2iron par315: Driver-2iron par416: Driver-3w-8iron par517: 2iron par 3 (even saw some guys hit 3w!!)18: Driver-2iron par 4.

The golf course was unlike any other I had played, and definitely had the teeth to be considered a formidable major championship test. I got off to a rough start on Thursday, finishing 127th. But Friday I actually put together one of my better rounds of the year. I felt the most in control of my golf ball in a round in recent memory, playing soft chippy shots into the wind and taking aggressive lines off the tees. Aside from one buried lie green side on the par 5 7th and one poor 3w into the water, it was one of the best rounds of golf of the season. I missed the cut by 2, but stayed back to practice the rest of the weekend and put in some good work. A highlight from the range was trading a stinger-driver lesson for a flop shot lesson from Alex Noren.
Then I traveled to Ft. Worth for the Charles Schwab Invitational, at one of my favorite golf courses on tour, Colonial CC. The tight tree-lined fairways and thick Bermuda rough put a premium on good driving, which was quickly developing into my strong suit this season.

I also had a meeting with my performance team to discuss what had been a strange start to 2021. I had two top 5s and 6 missed cuts in my first 10 events of 2021. The message they gave me was to stay in the saddle and keep doing what I’m doing. I was on the right track.
I had a slow start again on Thursday, shooting even par to place 41st. But on Friday morning, I was in the first group off with Doug Ghim and Talor Gooch. We all played very well, and played in just under 4 hours. Apparently the group behind us was on the clock on the second hole!! I got the putter going and shot 63, vaulting my way into a tie for 6th place.

That weekend was a lot of fun, especially being in the mix with fans back. I found myself in the top 3 making the turn to the back 9 on Sunday, but fell out of my rhythm in a slower group and made the mistake of rushing to try to help keep pace. I ended up finishing the tournament in 20th place, but found both a level of consistency that I had been missing to that point in the season. As my team told me, good things would happen if I just stayed in the saddle!

Best, Maverick

Maverick McNealy makes an incredible hole-in-one at John Deere

On Friday, July 9, 2021 on the 2nd day of the John Deere Classic, Maverick made a hole-in-1 on the 16th hole. This was his first hole-in-1 as a PGA pro.