PULLMAN – Maverick McNealy set a course record at the difficult Palouse Ridge Golf Club in the final round of the Pac-12 Golf Championships on Wednesday to run away with the individual title, and it might have been the easiest thing he’s done in the past 24 hours.
The Stanford sophomore celebrated his athletic accomplishment by taking a midterm in Stanford’s legendary PSYCH 135: Sleep and Dreams class, and will take an economics midterm this morning.
But of all those tests, only the golf one comes with a trophy.
McNealy shot a 9-under-par 61, the best at Palouse Ridge in a par-70 configuration and finished the 72-hole tournament at 18 under, besting Oregon’s Aaron Wise by 10 strokes.
His four-round score of 262 is the best in Pac-12 tournament history, a lofty feat in a conference that counts pros such as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods among its golf alumni and whose teams have won 14 national championships.
Also well behind McNealy in the final standings were Arizona State’s Jon Rahm and Washington’s Cheng-tsung Pan, the No. 1- and No. 9-ranked amateur golfers in the world, respectively. McNealy is ranked No. 8.
Stanford also took home the team victory, surpassing second-place Oregon by 14 strokes and third-place Arizona State by 15.
“It feels so great to win, especially with the team,” McNealy said. “We worked so hard this spring and it’s been a long time coming since the first event of the year. We thought we’ve been a good team but just haven’t quite sealed the deal yet.”
For much of the first two days of competition, ASU and USC battled for the top spot on the team leaderboard. After finishing up a birdie on his third hole, McNealy glanced at the leaderboard and saw that Stanford had taken the lead.
He was well out in front of the individual scores and could have easily stayed safe and played for par the rest of the day, wrapping up team and individual titles with little risk.
But with Stanford coach Conrad Ray traveling in his group and constantly reminding him to stay with his aggressive game plan, even in awkward spots, he made seven more birdies before the round was over.
“I think it’s easy when you get a lead and you glance up at the leaderboard, to protect and to guard and he was in a spot where he needed to put the gas pedal down,” Ray said. “It was pretty neat to see him do that the next few holes.”
The home team was not among those celebrating. After a productive first day that saw Washington State in a tie for third place after the first 36 holes, with freshman Derek Bayley sitting in second place overall, the Cougars struggled on Tuesday and came undone in the final round.
WSU finished in 10th place, ahead of only the mountain schools, Colorado and Utah, neither of which bears much semblance to a Pac-12 golf program. Michael Anderson, who kept the Cougars afloat on Tuesday, started well, collecting a birdie and an eagle in his first five holes.
But the front nine is the toughest at Palouse Ridge, and it took its toll as Anderson went eight strokes above par on holes three through seven.
“I’m not sure where to put my finger on it,” WSU coach Garrett Clegg said. “If anything, it was just the difficulty of trying too hard, kind of getting in your own way.”
Bayley shot 74 on Wednesday and finished in a tie for 15th place, hardly what he hoped for after Monday but still the best finish by a Cougars freshman in conference tournament history.
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