SILVIS -- At some PGA Tour events, the low amateur in the field is awarded a special honor of some sort. While there is no special designation for that honor at the John Deere Classic, Stanford's Maverick McNealy and University of Illinois standout Nick Hardy shared a distinct honor this weekend.
The two highly-decorated amateurs were the first pair to make the weekend at the JDC and put their talented golf games on display. McNealy ended up 9-under for the tournament and taking low-am honors, edging out Hardy who finished 7-under at TPC Deere Run.
McNealy and Hardy's faces lit up when they were told that they were the first pair of amateurs playing in the weekend at TPC Deere Run.
"Really cool. Mav is a great player, obviously, and it has been fun being able to play with him the past two days," Hardy said. "Being in this environment is really cool and that is special, I did not know that."
"Wow, that is pretty cool," McNealy added. "I think it is a testament to the quality of college golfers out here right now. It is pretty fun to be out here on the weekend and see crowds like this and play this golf course four times. I have had a lot of fun getting to know Nick."
Being an Illinois product, Hardy attracted a big following throughout the week. He thought it was an incredible experience to be playing in front of such a crowd.
"That is so cool," Hardy said of the fan support. "Illini fans are incredible, it was really cool at the national championship and it felt the same way here. I did not know what to expect, it is my first time out here and I think there was five Illini here and that is really cool. Being in Illinois is really special."
Hardy was not quite satisfied with the way he played, despite shooting a low round of 66 on Friday. The 21-year-old had 20 birdies over the four rounds, but some bogeys held him back.
"I am pleased with how I played but I am disappointed in the fact I feel like I could have done better,'' Hardy said. "I have realized that this is my first time out here in a way. I have learned a lot and like I have said, the margin of error is not much.''
Hardy played in the event with fellow amateur and Illinois teammate Dylan Meyer. Hardy spoke about the fine line between helping your teammate and still competing.
"We are competitors, we want to beat the brains out of each other any day," Hardy said. "But we are teammates and we do help each other."
McNealy again enjoyed some national exposure, similar to what he experienced by playing in the U.S. Open and the Greenbrier Classic. The recent graduate says he is becoming more accustomed to the pro atmosphere.
"I have been lucky to have a pretty awesome little pro internship here," McNealy said. "This is my fourth Tour event. I have played two U.S. Opens and the Web.com event. By the end of the summer I will have another major in the Open Championship (next week), so I would have to say this is the most comfortable I have been in a pro event."
McNealy is at crossroads for his future, possibly passing on pro golf for the business world. But for now he is preparing to play on the PGA Tour.
"I would love to play for my country again at the Walker Cup. That was very special," McNealy said. "I am playing the Open Championship as an amateur, and the Reno PGA Tour event which I was lucky enough to get a sponsors invite to. After that I am not sure, but I am preparing as if I am going to play professionally."