"I'm proud of the fact that I never gave up on my dream of playing in a major championship," McNabb, the only Philadelphia Section PGA member to qualify, said last Friday at Applebrook. "I think it says a lot about the fact that I'm willing to put the time and the hard work in and persevere. Fortunately for me that's paid off.
"There are a lot of guys out there that are doing those same things that haven't had that success. So I think for me it's a little bit of will and determination and it's a little bit of good luck. I'm proud of the fact that at 47 and 48, I'm playing some of the best golf of my life."
McNabb, of Newark, Del., earned his spot in dramatic fashion at the PGA Professional National Championship last June at Myrtle Beach, S.C. He sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club to punch his ticket; a par would have landed him in a playoff, a bogey would have kept him out.
"I got over [the ball], went through my routine, didn't try to focus on the importance of the putt or anything else," he said. "When I hit it, I knew I hit it the right speed and on the line I picked. The question was, did I pick the right line? It went right into the middle of the hole. It was the best putt I've made in my career, for sure."
Although he missed the cut last year at Oak Hill after scores of 74 and 76, McNabb enjoyed the experience. He felt comfortable in an environment of the world's greatest golfers. He felt the energy of the crowds and estimated he signed "like 4,000 to 5,000 autographs."
And this year, his anticipation is greater because "now I kind of know what to expect." He was scheduled to play a practice round Monday with three-time major champion Ernie Els and had something tentatively set with Steve Stricker.
McNabb said making the cut this year "would be the fulfillment of a lifelong goal." And it would be the latest step in a dream journey.
"It's funny how your goals change," he said. "My goal was to play in a major championship. Now all of a sudden I'm playing in my second. It's almost like you're not satisfied with that now. You're trying to push yourself even further, which is how I think people get better."