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

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