Conner MacKenzie, winner of the Randpark Graduate Championships this past weekend, was passionate about rugby at school. A talented kicker of the ball, he excelled at flyhalf and was vice-captain of De Le Salle’s first XV. He even went for trials with the Golden Lions but ultimately decided to focus on a little white ball instead of a rather larger oval one.
After school he studied hard at Tuks and graduated top of his class with an honours degree in environmental science. Now aged 24, he’s been coaching cricket and rugby at Trinityhouse (in between making birdies) and loving it. So what lies in store for this man who can hit the ball a long way – joining the paid ranks, a career steeped in his love of nature, or coaching sport?
Actually none of the above. “I’ve had a good offer in a completely different field and as of May 1 I’m going to take up a post as a financial adviser,” he says. “At one stage I did think about turning pro and I’ve been playing some decent golf. Earlier this year I reached the quarter-finals of the South African Match Play champs at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington before losing to Christopher Dyer, a really top player from England, who made it to the final. He was seven under par through 12 holes and beat me 6 and 5. I kind of decided then that maybe I wasn’t at the level I needed to be to become a professional golfer. But the game is still very much part of me and I’ll continue to try and chase down all the trophies at Randpark!”
A past Junior Club Champion, Conner will soon have a chance of adding more silverware to a cabinet which is fast filling up. The top 16 in last year’s men’s club championships (in which he was runner-up behind winner Erwee Botha) qualified for a separate knockout event and he’s made it to the final, with his opponent still to be determined.
In the Graduate Club Champs (which is for players under the age of 30) he shot 73 on Firethorn and 74 on Bushwillow for a 147 aggregate to win by one from Byron Anley with Jared Botha third on 149. “But,” Conner explains, “I nearly blew my chances on Bushwillow’s 18th as I drove left into the trees and couldn’t find my ball under all the autumn leaves on the ground. So that meant going back to the tee and playing three and if my girlfriend hadn’t been standing near to where my second tee-shot landed, also under the leaves, I probably would have lost that one too. Fortunately she saw where it went. I ended up making a triple-bogey seven but still squeezed home with a shot to spare!”
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter.