Eternal Optimism Fuels Mackenzie’s Fire

17 Sep Eternal Optimism Fuels Mackenzie’s Fire

The Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada obviously borrows its moniker from title sponsor Mackenzie Investments. But with long-time touring pro Brock Mackenzie amongst the field this week at the Freedom 55 Financial Championship, it wouldn’t go wrong if the Mackenzie name stemmed from the former First-Team All American.

Heading into a rainy Day 3 Saturday at Highland Country Club, Mackenzie sat T8 with a score of 8-under 132 (68-64). With $79,725 in earnings this year, including a win and five Top-10s, Mackenzie is guaranteed to finish amongst the Top 5 on the Order of Merit (he currently sits No. 2), and assured his Web.com Tour card next season.

At age 35, Mackenzie is amongst the oldest players on the Mackenzie Tour, and junior (by two months) only to Canadian Ryan Williams in the field this week. The 6’3”, 179-pound native of Coos Bay, Oregon turned pro in 2004 after graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Economics – the Huskies website has a complete list of his collegiate accomplishments. It calls Mackenzie “the most decorated player in Washington history.”

Both he and his sister, Paige, a former LPGA Tour player turned Golf Channel analyst, were the top-ranked players at the same time on their respective teams at U. Washington. And both played soccer and point guard for their high school basketball teams.

Mackenzie got his start in golf at age 2 from his parents, who he lists as his heroes. Both parents are avid golfers and both work as pharmacists. He lists playing in the 2003 Walker Cup (where he went 3-0) and in the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills (missed the cut by three strokes) as his biggest thrills in golf.

The Mackenzie Tour also carries detailed career highlights for Mackenzie, who has three Tour wins: the 2010 Times Colonist Open; 2014 ATB Financial Classic; and this season, the National Capital Open to Support Our Troops.

Now Mackenzie returns to the Web.com Tour, where he had a solid year in 2007 with $118,247 in earnings. In 2015, Mackenzie played 20 Web.com events, made the cut 13 times, had three top-25 finishes and won $47,435.

The quintessential journeyman pro, Mackenzie has four PGA Tour events on his resume, including three in 2004, and one in 2010 when he finished T37 at the RBC Canadian Open, thanks to an opening-round 6-under 64. He’s competed on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica, too.

Local golf fans may recognize Mackenzie from his Top 5 Order of Merit finish at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club during the 2014 Tour Championship. Now he returns to London with the Web.com Tour again his destination.

You won’t find a more engaging member of the Mackenzie Tour than Mackenzie, who’s just as comfortable fielding questions from a golf scribe as he is hunting pins during a Sunday showdown. If there were a handbook on handling life on Tour, then Mackenzie would be the perfect author of that how-to guide.

Mackenzie has seen it all on the Mackenzie Tour – a pro loop that has matured concurrently with his own career.

“It’s come a long way. There aren’t too many of us who were around back in 2005-06 when they used to have events in Mexico,” Mackenzie said. “I remember playing Barton Creek (Resort and Spa) in Austin, Texas at a couple of my first Canadian Tour events. We played in Modesto, California. So it was kind of an all-over tour.

“We had a couple of years where the purses went way up,” Mackenzie added. “I think they tried to get more people to play then. Fortunately (American) Aaron Goldberg (2010 Order of Merit winner) and I were able to thrive in 2010 when they had about $250,000 Canadian an event.

Without a doubt, once the PGA Tour threw its muscle behind the Canadian Tour, now Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada, its professional status grew exponentially – growth that didn’t escape the eye of one of its biggest stars.

“Once the PGA Tour came in, put their name behind it with the right people in charge – and the staff are amazing now – it brought it to a whole other level. What you are seeing is all of the best players from America now. We didn’t necessarily have that before. We had some mini tours and some other stuff going on in the U.S. Now, you’re seeing players like (this week’s second-round leader) Aaron Wise, and (fellow American) Taylor Moore – these All-Americans coming up to Canada because they know it’s a great avenue to get to the Web.com Tour.”

Yet no one knows how nerve-shattering and fickle it can be inside the ropes than Mackenzie, who has had a taste of the big-time. One missed putt per round can put you well out of reach of that Sunday trophy. For Mackenzie, maturing as a pro has been a work in progress. Sometimes you take two steps forward, three steps back. But you remain an eternal optimist.

“I tell people if I can, in the off season, shave half a shot per round off my scores, then I’m going to have a great year. That’s two every tournament. So, if you’re playing 20 tournaments, that’s 40 shots. Well, you figure out the money. It’s a fine line.

“It’s the little mistakes. And it’s making just a couple putts more. That’s the difference,” Mackenzie explained. “I think you can take the top 20-25 guys on this tour and easily integrate them into the Web.com, and nobody would notice. Look at J.J. Spaun (2015 Order of Merit winner and recent Web.com Tour grad moving to the PGA Tour). He dominated this tour. He went out there with a Top 5 every week.”

Watching and listening to Mackenzie in the players’ lounge after his Saturday round was witnessing a grizzled veteran giving youngsters a lesson in the ABCs of life on Tour. He did so with amazing patience, too. So, how does that translate out on the golf course?

“I try to be (even-tempered),” Mackenzie said. “I’ve learned. When I was young, I would get mad, and it might affect the next shot. But you know what? It’s just golf. And I am confident with my game. I know I can make up a shot if I hit a bad shot. We all have bad days.”

In terms of the mechanics of the golfs swing, Mackenzie is a standout in that department, too. He most often chips one-handed, keeping his left hand out of the way, sometimes even tucked in his pocket when he’s chipping just off the green.

“It’s a drill I started with because I was having trouble, and the contact all of a sudden became really good,” Mackenzie explained. “It’s a nice thing for me to fall back on. I know that I can execute it and at least give myself a chance at making the putt. It’s not necessarily pretty, but as long as it gets it up and down, that’s all I care about.”

 

Paige, today watching the Freedom 55 Financial Championship leaderboard from Orlando, said she first suggested three years ago that Brock should give one-handed chipping a try. Obviously, she has been a keen observer of her brother’s career – a career which she said saw a big jump about four years ago.

“Something happened – the switch just flipped,” said Paige. “It wasn’t just one moment, and I’m not really sure why things changed. But what he was doing just wasn’t working.

“He has always had amazing passion for the game, but now he practices smarter, I think. He had such high expectations coming off a great NCAA career. He found out quickly that things are different amongst the pro ranks. Now he has balance in his life, and maturity,” Paige explained.

Mackenzie has “always been a charismatic personality,” according to Paige, but now he no doubt plays second banana to his sister when it comes to offering insight on the game. Both are equally amiable, cerebral and quick, but Paige has a bigger platform, appearing on the Golf Channel. And while Mackenzie is proud of his sibling, he doesn’t often catch her act on the small screen.

“To be honest with you, I don’t watch her that much. She’s just my sister, you know what I mean? I still call her if I need something, or if I need her to pick me up at the airport. The Morning Drive show is on really early when I’m on the West Coast.

“What I did enjoy was watching her do Golf Central from the Women’s NCAA Championships.  I thought she just shined that week. She offered a lot of insight, obviously. It was obviously a set up for her to have a great week, because of the relationships she had with those girls. And she did a great job.”

Said Mackenzie, “As her brother, I’m proud of her. I’ve passed along (the positive feedback) to her. You know, there are always going to be people that don’t like what you do, and there’s always going to be people that like what you’re doing.”

When examining brass tacks, Paige suggested considering Brock’s 2015 Web.com Tour stats. He finished first in greens in regulation, driving and ball striking.

“Those numbers were amazing. How can you not think there are good things to come?” she said.

It’s not uncommon to see a touring pro blossom later in life. And if that happens for Brock Mackenzie, it won’t be a story of overnight success. Rather, it will be a tale of a pro whose passion for the game of golf continued to grow, in good times and bad.

And that, in a nutshell, is what separates the pretenders from the contenders.

When Mackenzie dons his PGA Tour Canada hockey sweater on Sunday for a second time in his career, it will mark the beginning of a new chapter for the Mackenzie Tour standout. With or without his one-handed chipping style, it will be fun watching it all unfold.

Photos and Story by Jeffrey Reed

Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com

Paige Mackenzie Photo: The Golf Channel