McKenzie’s reputation continues to grow Stateside

Rowlands Castles Billy McKenzie Picture: Andrew Griffin
Rowlands Castles Billy McKenzie Picture: Andrew Griffin
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Billy McKenzie has polished off another remarkable season by being named player of the year in the American Midwest Conference (AMC).

The Rowlands Castle ace picked up the accolade as his William Woods University, Missouri, side booked their place in the national finals.

Twelve months ago the left-hander was nominated for the prestigious Jack Nicklaus Award, having been crowned the AMC individual champion.

And in 2014 he was named the NAIA Phil Mickelson Freshman of the Year after his maiden win and eight top-five finishes that season.

McKenzie’s first three campaigns in the States have seen a remarkable transformation in his game, with the 21-year-old now one of the most feared names on the collegiate leaderboard.

He returned home 12 months ago, after being nominated for the Nicklaus Award, to claim the Berkshire Trophy.

And having finally forced his way into the Hampshire team, he flew back to the States having helped the Colts reach the South East League Final.

His fine form continued through the Fall and into the spring season, which saw William Woods win last week’s Conference Championship by 41 shots – with McKenzie finishing fourth with a two-over-par score after rounds of 76, 71 and 71 at Cape Girardeau.

That was four shots behind team-mate Dave Houlding, with four of their side finishing in the top five.

No doubt McKenzie will be eyeing more glory when he finally heads home later this month.

But for a couple more weeks the focus is with his team-mates as they head to Illinois’ PGA Tour venue at TPC Deere Run for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics finals later this month, when they will be looking to improve on last year’s second place.

McKenzie said: ‘It’s tough playing for the team – you don’t want to let them down.

‘Also, being highly-ranked, the team expect me to be up there every event, which does have a lot of pressure.

‘But that just motivates me to practice harder so I don’t let them down.

‘It has made it easier when playing my own ball as I only let down myself instead of the whole team.

‘However, I feel I am representing Portsmouth, Hampshire, and William Woods every time I go out there, so I never want to let any of them down.

‘Confidence has played the biggest factor in me becoming a better player.

‘After the Berkshire Trophy win last summer, it changed my golfing attitude and helped this season.

‘I am up to fourth in the whole nation in the Golf Stat Cup, averaging 69.56 at one point, along with picking up two wins and a third in the first four events we played before Christmas.

‘During the Christmas break, I came 11th in the All-Patriot in Arizona, which was full of top collegiate and world-ranked players, so it was a nice finish considering I didn’t play much from October.’

Since the winter break, the William Woods team have finished first three times and second three times.

McKenzie added: ‘Winning a national championship is my next goal.

‘With us coming second last year, with me not playing to my ability, was frustrating – so I am hoping to put in a great display this year and pick up the cup.’