Father's DayJune 21, 2015

Scott and Maverick McNealy embody the good when fathers pass down golf to their children

When you stand them side by side, Scott and Maverick McNealy don't necessarily look all that much alike. It's an interesting quirk, this lack of family resemblance, a deceptive one, too. Have even the briefest of conversations with the pair and you'll come to appreciate there's actually a lot of the father to be found in his oldest son.

You see it in Maverick's quiet confidence, and the way he approaches life's simplest tasks in the most analytical of ways. Where it's most obvious, though, is in the passion for the game of golf that the old man passed on to his boy.

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"I have so many great memories playing with my dad, cramming 72 holes into a day on a family vacation," Maverick says. "He taught me everything I know about the game. And he has been there for pretty much every one of my golf milestones."

The most recent of which came earlier this month, when Maverick played for the victorious United States squad in the Palmer Cup, college golf's version of the Ryder Cup. This came shortly after the 19-year-old from Portola Valley, Calif., wrapped up his sophomore season at Stanford by claiming both the Jack Nicklaus Award and the Fred Haskins Award in recognition of being the top college golfer in 2014-'15. In all likelihood, Maverick's next big feat will be his selection sometime this summer to the U.S. Walker Cup team that will compete in the biennial match against Great Britain & Ireland at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in September.

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There is a natural fatherly pride that Scott, 60, takes in watching Maverick's on-course achievements. It's a feeling arguably more satisfying than the one that came from the personal accomplishments of building Sun Microsystems into one of the top technology companies in the 1980s and, more recently, becoming CEO of Wayin, a Denver-based firm that integrates social content into marketing strategies. Caddieing for your kid when he qualifies for the U.S. Open, as was the case last year for Scott at Pinehurst, is a uniquely rewarding opportunity.

But there is something humbling, too, in the approach Scott took toward sharing the game, a lesson that's appropriate to highlight around Father's Day. For as much as Scott loved the game -- playing for the Harvard men's golf team when he was in school and proudly holding the unofficial label of best golfer among Fortune 500 executives -- it wasn't something he ever forced on Maverick, or his three younger brothers, Dakota, Colt and Scout, all of whom are single-digit players.

"Golf is such a great game, but I wanted them to learn that for themselves," Scott says. "I wanted them to learn to love the game, to love to practice."

The want came for Maverick roughly two years ago, when he gave golf his full attention after ice hockey occupied six months of the year while he was in high school. Finally focused on the game, his innate skills caught up with his inner drive, as he won an NCAA-best six college tournaments this past season (including a 10-stroke triumph at the Pac-12 Championship) and posting a 69.05 scoring average.

Asked to explain how he took his game to new heights, Maverick says in part it came from hearing his father's voice in the back of his mind, encouraging him but also keeping him grounded.

"He always is reminding me golf is just a game. You're playing golf for fun," Maverick says. "When I'm standing over a 10-foot putt, he encourages me to think 'You want to make that putt. You don't have to make it.' In a way, that takes a lot of pressure off me."

Maverick's golf success has created an interesting dilemma of sorts. Where once he dreamed of following in his father's footsteps into the business world by using the management science and engineering degree he is working toward in Palo Alto, now the possibility of playing professional golf is crossing his mind. Maverick says he's unsure what the long-term future plans might be, that he's only focused on getting through school.

At some point, he will undoubtedly lean on Scott for advice. And what will dear old dad say?

"It's having chocolate cake or apple pie a la mode. I wish every kid had those kind of choices," Scott says. "I'm dying to have him go work at Wayin and have him groomed to go run it sometime. But he will have to choose for himself."

Just as Maverick did when he fell in love with golf in the first place.

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