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Randpark’s Conner Mackenzie: Pro golf is for me!

by | Apr 22, 2024

Former club champion Conner was a rookie on the Sunshine Tour in the recently completed 2023/24 season. Now 27, we sat down with him for a “Quick 9” in which he shared his experiences.

1. Q-School: “Hectic. Not many people get it done first time around so I was pretty chuffed to get over this hurdle at my first attempt. Once I made it through the first stage, going 10-under to finish 20th place, we went to the Heron Banks course – which is a great test of golf – on the Vaal River for the second and final stage. The pressure was huge to make the top 20 and secure Sunshine Tour playing privileges. I shot two under for the 72 holes and one under the final day to edge home in 17th spot. Believe me, that was easily the most stressful day of my life.”

2. On Tour: “First stop was the Zimbabwe Open at Royal Harare and then we went on to Lusaka Golf Club in Zambia for the Zanaco Masters. So I was straight into it as a brand new pro, playing in front of crowds which wasn’t the case as an amateur. I played well in both and made some cash. We then made some swing changes which didn’t work out. That put me on the back foot before we sort of figured out a way to correct things. So in mid-season I played some of my best golf, and I tied for sixth in the Vodacom Origins of Golf in KZN and, the following week, I tied fifth in the Sun Bet Challenge.” (Conner made a handy R130 000 in those two events).

3. Huge relief!: “You have to finish in the top 100 on the Order of Merit to keep your card for this new season and, when I missed a few cuts after playing so well in KZN, I was in danger of missing out. But I finished the season well, shooting 22-under at Dainfern in the Stella Artois Players Champs, and a solid 282 in Limpopo. This means I have secured my card for the 2024/2025 season and it’s a huge relief and also very satisfying. (Conner made over R230 000 in the season). It’s been a wonderful adventure and, yes, pro golf is for me!”

4. You experienced a bit of the DP World Tour: “I managed to pre-qualify for the Alfred Dunhill Championship and although I missed the cut by two shots it had been a childhood dream to play and compete at Leopard Creek and I got to do that. I also got through the pre-Q for Mauritius (the pre-Q was in SA), and to get me there to Mauritius family, friends and sponsors quickly put up the funds in a couple of hours so I could make the trip. I also missed the cut there but, again, the DP World Tour experience was special.”

5. Budget lessons learnt: “On tour it’s easy to spend more money than what’s coming in. So you have to be very careful. What helped was kind people offering to put me up in places like Zimbabwe and Zambia for example, so I was able to save a fair bit on accommodation costs.”

6. Lessons about your game? “Most of us on tour can hit the ball pretty far and straight, and I now realise more than ever that the difference being a good pro and a not so good one comes down to chipping and putting. I did improve in my rookie season in that department. For the first half of the season I was averaging about 72 shots a round; towards the end it was closer to 69.”

7. Friends on tour? “You know, you get to bond with some of your fellow players also trying their best out there during the ups and downs; it’s a bond that no-one else can really understand. It’s something I will cherish forever. Also of course, what was so important for me – during my own ups and downs – was so much support from family and friends, my girlfriend Sem and, I can’t not mention them, my sponsors (Wild Frontiers, Ferreira Fresh and Law Real Estate).”

8. Looking ahead to the 2024/25 tour: “I no longer will be playing courses and going to places I hadn’t been to before. So to have this knowledge second time around I’m sure will help a lot. And having secured my card I can carefully plan the next 12 months.”

9. A recap on Conner before turning pro: As a teenager he won Randpark’s Junior Championship. In 2021 he added the Graduate and Top 16 Match Play titles to his CV and in 2022 won the Club Championship on an impressive four-under-par 140. After school, where he played first team rugby, he studied hard and at university at Tuks he graduated top of his class with an honours degree in environmental science. In between making birdies, he was coaching cricket and rugby at Trinityhouse and loving it. He worked as a financial adviser for a while before stepping out of his comfort zone to try and make a career of hitting a little white ball. And he’s made a pretty decent start.

Written by Randpark member Grant Winter.

1 Comment

  1. Rob MacKenzie

    Thanks for all your support Randpark Golf. Awesome team !

    Reply

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