Turning A New Paige
Mackenzie Heads To Pro Career After Second-Round Defeat To Fellow Curtis Cupper Jennie Lee
By Ken Klavon, USGA
North Plains, Ore. – One career chapter ended while another continued to blossom Wednesday at the 2006 U.S.Women’s Amateur.
Jennie Lee, heading into her second year at Duke University, effectively closed the book on Paige Mackenzie’s amateur livelihood by taking down the medalist, 4 and 3, in the second round of match play at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club’s Witch Hollow Course.
In some ways, seeing the two ’06 USA Curtis Cuppers pitted against one another so early was a bit anti-climactic. One of them had to lose, unfortunately, and in this case, Mackenzie was the one making arrangements to find her way back to her Yakima, Wash., home.
“I wish I would have competed more this week,” said a sullen Mackenzie, 23, trying to put a brave face on the defeat. “And I wish I wasn’t going home.”
“I felt more focused in the match because of her,” said Lee.
On a historical level, Mackenzie had the cards stacked against her. Since this wasn’t Kansas, her chances were slim that she could win, the reason being that since 1990 only two of the medalists have smelled a title – Amy Fruhwirth in 1991 and Meredith Duncan in 2001. Both won in Kansas at Prairie Dunes and Flint Hills National, respectively.
Going into the match, Mackenzie didn’t realize she was taking on Lee until early Wednesday morning.
“It is odd,” she said of the pairing. “I didn’t look at my board.”
Lee, who had the clinching point for the USA in the recently completed Curtis Cup at Bandon Dunes Resort (Pacific Dunes), knew in advance that she had to be prepared. After all, the two learned each other’s games over the month leading up to the Match.
Mackenzie, a first-team All-America at the University of Washington this past season, had assimilated that one of Lee’s strengths was her accuracy off the tee, even if she wasn’t very long. She probably wasn’t aware that Lee had advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2005 Women’s Amateur, meaning that no matter what, Lee was a formidable foe. Lee, an honorable-mention All-American, recognized that Mackenzie had few weaknesses all around.
“First of all, she’s a great player and I know her game,” said Lee, 2-1-0 at the Curtis Cup. “But a match is a match and she’s just another player.”
Lee jumped ahead, winning the first hole with a par. She said that settled her down. On the third hole, Lee regained the 1-up margin by chipping in from off the fairway. She thought little of the 35-foot uphill chip, calling it run of the mill.
Both agreed that the 12th and 13th holes proved pivotal; strange because both were halved. Mackenzie missed two prime chances to either cut into Lee’s 2-up lead at that point or square the match. First, on the par-3 12th, Mackenzie tried playing the angle of the green by chipping on, with the intention that the ball would ricochet off the back fringe and roll down the sloped surface and toward the hole. The thick intermediate cut on the fringe instead grabbed the ball and held it hostage. Mackenzie was forced into a difficult chip, which she couldn’t finesse, and the ball took off 8 feet past the hole. She failed on the come-backer. “I didn’t execute,” said Mackenzie, 3-1-0 at the Curtis Cup.
On the next hole, Lee simply denied Mackenzie the hole. She chipped to within 3 feet of the flagstick, setting up a grand birdie try. Only Lee landed the first blow, rolling in her 7-footer.
“While I was standing over my putt, I felt a lot of pressure,” said Lee.
Mackenzie knew at the moment that it might cost her because Lee had registered three of her four birdies to that point. What’s more, Lee had been knocking everything close.
Lee put the match away at the par-3 15th with her final birdie. With it, Mackenzie watched her fruitful amateur career flip over.
A melancholy Mackenzie wouldn’t buy the excuse that perhaps the last two weeks of high adrenaline finally caught up to her. She disagreed because she said she normally thrives under constant pressure.
So now, she’ll head off to try to Monday qualify for the Safeway Classic LPGA Tournament, also in Portland next week. After that, she’ll head home and plot her professional career. She’s definitely heading to LPGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall. In between she’ll try to get in tournaments to keep her game sharp.
“It’s sad anytime there’s a transition in your life,” said Mackenzie, whose brother, Brock, competed on the 2003 USA Walker Cup team and now plays on the Canadian Tour.
And with that, she departed, walking away from a dear part of her life, growing a little bit more.
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Web editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.