Mackenzie is a young golf professional with Class A memberships in both the LPGA and PGA, is TPI certified, and First Tee certified. A few of her accomplishments include being the 2015 Top African American Golf Instructor, 2016-2017 Golf Digest Best Young Instructor, 2017 WCC PGA Youth Development Leader, and 2018 LPGA Southeast Section Junior Golf Leader.
Mackenzie has already had an illustrious career both as a player and now a leader in the industry and she is making a huge impact on the youth in this sport.
Here is her story:
What is your current position in the golf industry?
I am the West Tennessee Regional Director and the Associate Executive Director for the First Tee of Tennessee in Memphis. Before that, I was the Senior Program Director for the First Tee of Tampa.
When did you first get introduced to golf?
I got introduced to golf when I was about seven. My mom put me and my sister in every sport. We were in gymnastics class and she was sitting next to the local head pro's wife, and I guess we weren't doing very good in gym class, because she told her to bring us to golf class. So me, my sister, and my mom started taking lessons with her husband as a family.
Did you like it right away? Were you good at it?
Right away, it was just a family thing to do. We'd all go out, have our lesson, and we'd go home. And then at about nine is when the pro was like, "You guys need to start playing in tournaments and start getting on the golf course." And I think the first time I played, I got a trophy, and so I was like, "Oh, okay. I like this! This might be something I want to do."
I think at that point, I started being a little bit more excited about it. My mom was always excited about it because the same lady that introduced us to it told her that there were scholarships for it. So, whether I liked it or not, my mom already had it set that me and my sister were going to play regardless.
I played in high school and I played in college at Indiana State, and so did my sister. So, I guess her plan worked.
What did you major in at Indiana?
I majored in business marketing with a minor in finance and Spanish.
Mackenzie graduated Magna cum Laude and also got her master’s in Business Administration.
When did you know that you wanted to work in the golf industry?
I think the golf industry told me that I was going to be in it. I played my whole life and I wanted to play professionally. But if I wasn't going to play professionally, I wanted to be in finance. That's kind of where I was headed. After I finished my MBA, my mom's like, "You should go play professionally. Just give it a try. You're young, do it."
So, I moved to Tampa, played some mini tour golf and played about three seasons of professional golf and then a position opened up at The First Tee of Tampa. I took that and it ended up being the best decision I've ever made because it gave me an opportunity to do business and still be with kids and mentor because I really like to mentor. I did that in college; I was a mentor to all the incoming freshmen athletes. So, I love that.
When I got the job for Program Director in Tampa, I said, "Oh, maybe I was supposed to be here." I think it just chose me and it just fit.
Mackenzie was a First Tee member since she was 11 and has now been working for the First Tee since 2012.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is getting to change the direction of people's lives and to see people grow and be a part of that. That's the number one reason why I work seven days a week is because I know that it's going to make a difference in the kids' lives.
And now that I've been in the program for some years now, I can see those rewards because they're now coming out of high school and going to college and finishing school. Some of these kids never even thought they would make it to school and so that's the best part.
What are some of the challenges you face in the industry?
Number one is convincing people that golf is for everybody. Normally, when I try to get kids involved and parents involved, they're like, "Golf? Why would I even consider that?" So, that's always a challenge. I think the fact that they see me and I'm probably not the typical golfer that people think of helps. Another challenge that I've had is that I'm relatively young and most of the people I work with are older than me. And so just communicating with each other and just bridging the gap between the generations has been a challenge.
How do you think the golf industry benefits from having women, and especially women of color, in leadership positions?
I think it's very important. I think studies show that seeing is believing, right? Seeing people that look like them encourages people to do the same. Even for me, somebody I looked up to was Maulana Dotch, who is another LPGA/PGA Professional and she was just the only younger one that I saw at the time. So, I think it's very, very important just to show them that it is for everybody. I think it's very important to make sure we have everybody involved at all levels of the industry in the game.
How do you think we can get more women, minorities, and diversity within these leadership roles in the golf industry?
It's going to have to happen from the top down. The people at the top are going to have to understand the importance of having a diverse workforce and a diverse boardroom and diverse perspectives making decisions. If that doesn't happen, it will never change because they're the ones that are hiring people.
What are your future aspirations in the golf industry?
I just want to get to a place where I can make as much of an impact as I can. I want to be in a place to make decisions and help people make decisions that make the game inclusive for all. I don't know what role that is or what that looks like or if I have to create something, but I just want to be able to be in that room with the leaders and help give my perspective and help shape the next years of golf.
What advice or words of inspiration would you give to young women just starting their careers in the golf industry?
¡Sí se puede! (Yes you can!)
You can do it. And just realizing that you deserve to be wherever you want to be. I think sometimes people get intimidated by the atmosphere and by the culture. But once you in your heart know that you deserve to be there and you hold yourself in that manner, you'll get the respect and go where you want to go.
Thank you so much, Mackenzie, for sharing your story. You can follow Mackenzie on Instagram, @mackenziemackgolf or visit her website, and remember to follow @golf.hers on Instagram and Facebook as well.
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