History repeats itself for marvellous McKenzie

Billy McKenzie
Billy McKenzie
Scott Gregory

Gregory and Ellis key men for Walker Cup mission

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Last year he was crowned AMC Conference Player of the Year and nominated for a Jack Nicklaus Award, before flying home for summer to claim one of the most prestigious 72-hole strokeplay titles in English Amateur golf – The Berkshire Trophy.

This year, he was player of the year again and nominated for the NAIA’s Jack Nicklaus Award, again.

And within eight weeks of touching down back in Blighty, Billy McKenzie landed one of the most historic trophies by winning the Tillman at East Sussex National earlier this month.

The Rowlands Castle man did so by five shots after proving that getting to 13-under was not unlucky.

A delighted McKenzie said: ‘I was playing really well – just a couple of silly mistakes in the third round.

‘I was determined to make up for the mistakes and played every hole in the final round to perfection really. I only missed one green.’

McKenzie admitted that seeing his former Hampshire Boys team-mate Scott Gregory teeing it up in The Open at Troon had inspired the US college golfer to hit top gear, having struggled a little in the South East Qualifier just a few days before.

He said: ‘Scott playing in the open is an unreal achievement and it kind of put things into perspective for me.

‘It made me realise I want that sort of success one day so I need to start winning these events.

‘Some kind words from my Hampshire Colts and county team-mate Sam Day, who works on the TaylorMade European Tour truck sure fired me up and made me believe in myself a little more.

‘I am finally starting to realise I belong here and can win any amateur event I tee it up in.’

McKenzie, fresh from helping Hampshire reach their sixth English county finals in 10 years at Reading’s Calcot Park, travelled to Uckfield to tackle the lengthy East Sussex National, which has hosted European Tour events in the past.

After an opening two-under par 70, containing five birdies and three bogeys, the left-hander fired into life on the second day – shooting a superb 66.

While there was no repeat of those fireworks the following morning a one-over par 73 – which included three birdies to counteract a double bogey at the par five 14th – did not hurt his cause.

It left the Hampshire ace going into the afternoon’s final round with a two-shot lead over Castle Royal’s George Gardener and Weymouth’s Tom Robson.

And victorious McKenzie got back on the birdie trail, blowing the field away with his second 66, and only the third of the tournament by the 153-strong field.

The champion finished out in style by birdieing the last for the first time in the competition, defying wildly wet and windy conditions to win by five from Coventry’s Adam Lumley.