Mckenzie stays Stateside for big event

Rowlands Castle's Billy Mckenzie. Picture: Andrew Griffin
Rowlands Castle's Billy Mckenzie. Picture: Andrew Griffin
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Billy Mckenzie sacrificed a Christmas return to the UK to continue his fine progress in USA and take part in a nationwide high-profile event.

The 20-year-old Rowlands Castle ace was invited to play in The Patriot All-America at The Wigwam in Arizona this week – a tournament that has captured the attention of the nation with its association with the US military.

Alongside the Folds of Honor Foundation, each of the 84 golfers in the field will continue the tradition of representing a fallen service member.

Every participant receives a golf bag at the event’s opening ceremony with the name and branch of service of a fallen military member that they represent.

Following the tournament, the bags will then be auctioned off at respective schools with all proceeds benefitting the Folds of Honor Foundation to provide post-secondary educational scholarships to the families of the military service men and women killed or disabled while in active service.

Mckenzie, who is attending William Woods University in Missouri, is representing a highly-decorated soldier Eric Yates of Rineyville, Kentucky – a first lieutenant from the US Army’s infantry regiment – who was killed at the age of 26 in Afghanistan in 2010.

The tournament is only in its fourth year but is already recognised as a top amateur event on the circuit.

The three-day, 54-hole tournament on The Wigwam’s Gold course suggests it ‘attempts to create a bowl-like experience for the participants’, which is bringing the best of the US college sporting talent to compete against one another as it does in American football, basketball and various other sports.

The field is one of high quality with several players from the top 100 involved.

The invitations to The Patriot All-America are primarily based on individuals earning All-America in honours the previous season.

But it was an English clean sweep from the William Woods (WWU) squad with Mckenzie selected alongside two more Englishmen from his college team – David Houlding, from Leeds, and Julian Taylor, from York.

Mckenzie said: ‘To participate in this event means my golf career is going in the right direction.

‘I feel like it was worth coming to WWU, as obviously to win freshman of the year and now being invited to an even bigger event is something I am happy about and I hope to play well.’

Mckenzie enjoyed a fantastic first season and has continued to impress.

Last year, his team finished third in the national championship but 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.

The talented left-hander was back on home soil for the summer and made it to the last 32 of the English Amateur Championship.

He turned in a reasonable first round at The Patriot All-America with a three-over-par 73 leaving him in a tie for 28th – five strokes off the lead.

Mckenzie said: ‘It wasn’t easy in the first round.

‘But for once a golf tournament isn’t about me and I feel honoured to be able to play for Eric Yates. I’ll be trying my utmost over the next few days to play well in his memory.’