Mckenzie earns top college award

Billy Mckenzie with the Phil Mickelson Award

Billy Mckenzie with the Phil Mickelson Award

Scott Gregory

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Billy Mckenzie is eyeing up more big prizes back on home turf after getting his hands on one of the top awards in American college golf.

The 19-year-old Rowlands Castle ace has just returned from his first year at William Woods University in Missouri where he enjoyed a fantastic season.

While his team finished third in the national championship, his overall efforts saw him land the Phil Mickelson Award – which is given to the top golf freshman in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

But the talented left-hander is back on Hampshire soil for the summer and is now gunning for top amateur titles – starting with the Lagonda Trophy at Gog Magog in Cambridge this week – before he heads back to USA for his second year in September.

Mckenzie said: ‘The Phil Mickelson Award was something I set my sights on from day one.

‘I told my coach when I arrived that I wanted to win it – that was my main goal.

‘It is nationwide and there are a lot of schools in there, so it was a big award to win.

‘Over the season, I got one win and a lot of seconds and thirds so I was always up there with a chance.

‘A lot of people will look at that and think I had a good season and a few more people might keep an eye on me now.

‘And Phil Mickelson is my idol, so it’s great to win it!’

While some struggle to cope with the culture shock, Mckenzie has taken to the new lifestyle with ease and is thriving on and off the course.

He said: ‘It’s been absolutely fantastic.

‘It’s a different type of golf but it probably suits me better because I have a high ball flight. I absolutely love it.

‘I didn’t expect to have such a good freshman year.

‘I was only outside the top five three times. I was just really consistent.

‘And my studies have gone well too. I’m studying sports management and have been getting good grades.

‘I’m just enjoying everything about it.’

The former South Downs College student still has his sights set on a career in the professional ranks.

But first, he has his ambitions in the amateur game to fulfil and continued his fine form to seal his place in next month’s Brabazon Trophy field at the northern qualifier.

He said: ‘I’ve got some tournaments coming up so hopefully I can do well in those.

‘Playing professionally is still what I want to do.

‘I have got three years to get as good as I can. If I feel like I have got a shot at it, I will definitely give it a go.

‘But I have a long time to develop as a player.’

It’s also good to know that Mckenzie has lost none of his magic on his old track after a hole-in-one in a practice round earlier this week.

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