Stanford's McNealy explains his decision regarding pro golf | News | Palo Alto Online |


Stanford's McNealy explains his decision regarding pro golf

Portola Valley resident Maverick McNealy writes about his decision to turn pro. Photo by Bob Drebin/

Exactly one year ago, I wrote a short piece explaining why I was returning for my final year at Stanford.

It starts with:

"People often ask when I'm turning pro.

It's not when.

It's if.

I'm shelving that decision until next year."

Now, one year later, I have finally made that decision: I am going to turn professional after this year's Walker Cup for the start of the 2017-2018 PGA Tour season.

Some people may think "What's the big deal?"

In many ways, not much. I'm just another college golfer who is hoping to find success in the world of professional golf.

I'm nervous, excited, and I love golf.

What makes me different is that I arrived at this decision much later than most. Maybe it would have been a bigger deal if I had decided not to turn.

I was hesitant to post this because I didn't feel it was particularly newsworthy. I have yet to really accomplish anything at the pro level while playing as an amateur. But, I was a bit surprised that so many have taken interest in my decision, so I thought I'd explain why in my own words.

The first reason this decision took so long is that I truly didn't know if I was cut out to play professional golf. Those guys are really, really good at what they do. It wasn't until after my sophomore year that it even crossed my mind that I might be good enough to give it a shot.

Second, my top priorities in college lay with my team and my studies. I wouldn't have traded one day with my teammates wearing the Cardinal red for anything. Stanford head coach Conrad Ray took a huge chance on a scrawny 17-year-old hockey player when he offered me a four-year spot on his team -- one which I was not going to short-change. I still don't know what got into him to take the 4,400th ranked amateur in the world.

Thirdly, I loved the real-world applications of the work I did in the classroom. Management science and engineering combines math, statistics, economics, computer science, management theory, decision analysis and finance to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to making decisions. Applying what I learned to the business world, which is really all about making good decisions, was very appealing to me.

Ultimately, I wasn't sure if professional golf would be the most effective and productive way for me to give back.

I had a front row seat to the way my dad did this. I think that giving people opportunities to earn a living and creating products that make the world a better place are two of the greatest things you can do. My dad directly employed 235,000 people over the course of his career, and his company, Sun Microsystems, built servers that helped widen the reach of the Internet.

My dad was (and still is) my hero. And I always thought that if I could work half as hard as he did, and accomplish a fraction of the things he did, I could make the world a better place.

It is no secret that I have a head start in life. I went to Harker School and played golf at Stanford University. I grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley, and I have two fantastic parents and three amazing younger brothers. My family is incredibly and unusually fortunate.

Since I was little, my parents have always told me "to whom much is given, much is expected." My background is not something I should run from, ignore, be embarrassed about, or fall back on. I have to work harder than everyone else to prove I earned my success -- that it wasn't given to me. I just wasn't sure if golf was the way for me to do this.

That brings me to answer "Why golf?"

Let's start with the fact that I love golf. Anyone who has ever flushed a high-draw 5-iron, shot their personal best, or sprinted down the 18th hole to finish in the dark knows why.

I honestly believe that with a huge amount of work, I have what it takes to be one of the best players in the world. Getting better at something is one of the most exciting and gratifying things for me in life, and I'm excited to see how good I can get at golf.

The golf ball doesn't care who you are. You take full responsibility for every shot. If you hit a terrible one, you have to take ownership. Your caddy, coach, or even the cameraman who clicked a few seconds too early didn't hit that shot. You did. But if you hit a great one, you can take ownership of that too. Golf is the ultimate meritocracy and an exciting way for me to work hard and see what I can do -- because nothing in golf is ever given to you.

Golf is going to be a great way for me to meet and help people. There are some amazing individuals and organizations involved in golf, and I think the more people that we can get involved in the game, the better.

I hope to be a role model and an inspiration to young golfers and athletes. I hope I can show my appreciation for everyone who has allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming the best player in the world.

Through golf, I plan to earn and reinvest the resources to get more kids involved in sports (by the way, if you haven't read Harold Varner's Players' Tribune piece on growing the game, you should. It is fantastic).

There is so much to be learned from playing youth sports that is used later in life, and I hope to somehow be able to improve kids' lives through athletic competition. Where else do you have a group of individuals working towards a common goal under the leadership of an authority figure? Sounds like a team with a coach, and sounds a heck of a lot like a job.

But, at the end of the day, I have to play well for any of this to matter.

I am going from being a top amateur to the 1,794th ranked player in the world. I would love to leverage my golfing ability to make the game and world better. But I have to succeed on the course first to make that happen.

There is a part of me that is scared and nervous about playing against the world's greatest golfers. Golf is a very exposing sport, and these guys are really good. At the end of each day, there is a number next to your name. There is no hiding that.

The only way I know how to deal with that is to work hard, as hard as I can. And then to work a little bit harder.

I'm lucky to have a fantastic team (Mom, Dad, Grampa, Peter, Alex, Karen, Polly, Tom, Travis, Angel, Ange, Coach Ray) and family around me. Team Maverick is ready to go!

Thanks to everybody for your support.


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5 people like this
Posted by ExSUNW
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 23, 2017 at 9:27 pm

I was fortunate to work for Sun for over a decade, before and after the dot com bust. Your father was a great businessman, and a humble, regular guy. Some of my best experiences in my 35 years working for a half a dozen computer companies, occurred at Sun, mostly because of his leadership and the culture that he created (including: Kick butt and have fun). What I remember most about him, was how he did not sacrifice his family and personal life while he built a huge company. I knew he valued (and invested in) his family as much as he did the company he started. Glad to know that even though SUNW is gone (and soon will be long) forgotten, he leaves behind a much more valuable legacy that will outlive him. Not so for many of his peers, who may have more billions, but less of the important things in life.

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