Napa Valley Register article
By MARTY JAMES
Maverick McNealy, a Stanford senior and the 2017 winner of the Ben Hogan Award, has accepted a sponsor’s invitation to play in the Safeway Open this fall at Silverado Resort and Spa, tournament director David Babcock announced Wednesday.
The Safeway Open is the opening event of the PGA Tour’s wrap-around schedule. This year’s tournament, offering a $6.2 million purse, is Oct. 2-8 on the North Course.
The Ben Hogan Award was announced by Colonial Country Club, Friends of Golf and the Golf Coaches Association of America in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday.
McNealy, who is from Portola Valley, Calif., is currently ranked among the top-10 in all four major college and amateur ranking systems.
He is second in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, third in both the Golfstat and Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings, and is seventh in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking.
He was the winner of the 2016 Mark H. McCormack Gold Medal as the year’s No. 1 player.
McNealy has had an outstanding year for Stanford, placing third at the recent NCAA Stanford Regional with an 8-under-par score of 202.
He has nine top-20 finishes in 10 events, including six top-5 finishes. His win last fall at the Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational at Colonial Country Club was his 11th career college victory. McNealy’s 11 career victories puts him in a tie for first on Stanford’s all-time chart with Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers, Stanford reported on its website.
McNealy has a 69.72 stroke average through 29 rounds for Stanford.
“The Ben Hogan Award is one of the highest honors you can get as a college golfer,” said Babcock. “It’s a huge award for the college golfer every year.”
McNealy has had a very successful amateur career and is one of the most accomplished players in all of college golf. He represented the United States at the World Amateur Team Championship in 2016. He has been named to Team USA for this year’s Arnold Palmer Cup.
“We’re looking forward to having him, representing Stanford,” said Babcock. “It’s going to be awesome. We’re excited about it. He’s looking forward to it. He’s excited.”
McNealy, a two-time Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year, was scheduled to play in last year’s Safeway Open. He withdrew due to school commitments.
“We extended it again this year and he’s going to play,” said Babcock. “We definitely want to support local kids and college kids that are just starting out.”
McNealy is a management science and engineering major.
As the Hogan Award winner, he will receive an exemption into the 2018 Dean & DeLuca Invitational, a PGA Tour event.
Stanford will play in the NCAA Championships, which begin on Friday at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The Cardinal tied for the title at the NCAA Stanford Regional (May 15-17) at Stanford Golf Course.
Fourth straight year of PGA Tour in town
This will be the fourth straight year of the PGA Tour at Silverado, which has a long history of having hosted professional tournament golf, dating back to the late 1960s.
The five-year agreement with Safeway as the title sponsor runs through 2020. The event is part of the FedExCup schedule.
The Kaiser International Open Invitational, a PGA Tour event, was played from 1968-1976 at Silverado. The Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic, a PGA Tour event, was held here from 1977-1980. The Transamerica, a Champions Tour event, was played from 1989-2002.
Silverado was once the site of the PGA Tour’s national qualifying school. The Northern California Open was also played here.
“The North Course is very fair,” said Johnny Miller, a World Golf Hall of Fame member who is part of the ownership team at Silverado.
Miller said the players on the PGA Tour love spending time in the Napa Valley and playing at Silverado.
“It’s one of their favorite weeks – sort of like Hilton Head or Pebble Beach,” he said Tuesday at a Safeway Open VIP Sponsor Appreciation Outing. “We fall into that category of just a great getaway.
“Guys want to get off to a good start every year. What it has shown is that guys who get ahead in the fall, it’s hard to catch up to them.”
Babcock said there will be announcements of player commitments coming soon.
“The guys on the PGA Tour now have adapted to the wrap-around season,” said Babcock. “They embrace it. A win gets you into Masters. If you win this event, the first event of the year, you know you’ve got your card for two-plus years. You know you’re playing in the Masters. You know all these things.
“They know that coming here and winning early sets them up for the year, for sure.”
Beer, wine, spirits, food, music and golf is the theme of the event. The Safeway food and wine pavilion, a 25,000-square foot facility, will return and will again be located behind the No. 1 green and next to the 17th hole. There will be expanded viewing decks for spectators.
“We’re enhancing so many things,” said Babcock. “We really are excited, with the improvements that we have going. Every year we’re going to be a little bit better, a little more exciting, and just keep growing.
“The cornerstone of the Safeway Open is the exciting PGA Tour golf. We’re working hard to bring the best of the best here to Napa.”
There will again be three straight nights of concerts, on Oct. 5, 6 and 7. The concerts, to be held outside on the front lawn near the Silverado mansion, will start following the golf. Admission is free to all golf ticket holders.
The announcements of musical acts will be made in the next two months.
For more information on the Safeway Open, go to http://www.safewayopen.com/