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February 28, 2007

Will MacKenzie


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Will MacKenzie thanks for joining us here at the Honda Classic. You're living locally here now, maybe just talk about what your plan is for the week and just about living in this area.
WILL MacKENZIE: Yeah, I love it. I love it down here. I originally moved here 2003. My dad died in 2002 and it was close enough to North Carolina where I could get home to my mom if she needed me. And that's pretty much why I came out here instead of going out west. It's about a ten-hour drive back home, and golf mecca is down here.
So I played on the Golden Bear Tour 2003 down here. I'm real familiar with the area. Lived with Hank Kuehne. I just sort of fell in love with it. I fell in love with the fishing down here. Obviously the golf, the good weather; walking outside in the morning, it's about 75 or 80. You know, the geographically I could get home pretty quick.
But yeah, I love sleeping in my own bed this week. I was out west for I think eight weeks. So I took Pebble off and then I took México off. But you know, it just was a long trip, so I spent all of last week hanging out and fishing and practicing and just getting ready for this event. And I've played this golf course several times on the Golden Bear Tour. It never quite looked like this when I was playing it, though. It's turned into a beast I think.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If you could assess your season so far, you finished tied for fourth at the Mercedes-Benz Championship and made four cuts, I believe, other than that, if you would just assess your year so far. Still pretty early?
WILL MacKENZIE: You know, I made that nice -- you know, had the nice week at Mercedes. You know, since then I've played some decent golf. I missed the cut at Torrey by one, and somehow flailed late coming down the stretch on Friday at L.A. I shot 69 the first day and just hiccuped the thing away. I just had some mental issues. My caddie and I were like 30 yards off on the par-3 6th coming in and I was a couple under and I made double. I was frustrated with him and myself and we made such a huge error. You know, I could tell it wasn't the right club. I was like this, doesn't look like it's 207. It was like 177. And then I proceeded to make two bogeys with wedges.
So overall, played pretty well on the West Coast. I usually don't make much money out there and, you know, played the poa annua grass okay this year. But, you know, it's a good start. It's a good start. I definitely need to start playing good on this next little leg though. This is my territory, so I should play well.

Q. Before last week, I guess, how long had it been since you had played the champ course out here?
WILL MacKENZIE: Yeah, it's been since 2003. They do have some new tees. But everything, you know, whenever you're coming somewhere that's familiar, it's nice. I can remember good shots. I can remember holes I like, holes that were tough, places I can get it up-and-down from.
But like I said, you know, they have added ryegrass wall-to-wall here, so you know, we never played in that. We played in some bermuda, usually summer bermuda conditions, which can be very difficult here as well. But you know, the rough was never really deep.
So you know, you've got some interesting short game stuff around the greens. And if you're hitting it in the rough off the tee here, you know, you're 180 yards and you might draw a real bad lie that you've got to just sort of chunk and run it. So you're going to have to take your medicine if you're hitting it in the rough.
I used to be able to just sort of bomb it around the golf course, and it's an extremely long par 70. But I do like the golf course. I think it's -- you know, I don't want to say anything bad about Mirasol. I think it's just a better test of golf than Mirasol.

Q. When you came out here last week, did you take a look at it and say, "The holes are the same, the map is the same but this doesn't look like the course I remember?"
WILL MacKENZIE: Yeah, that's exactly what it is. Yeah, a familiar setting, great golf holes, but it's just fairways are tighter. The course is a little longer since they popped two of the par 5s into par 4s, and they have got some new tees on a couple of holes, a few holes. Yeah, they have just turned it into a big-time championship golf course.

Q. Where exactly do you live?
WILL MacKENZIE: Tequesta.

Q. Secondly, have you ever won a Golden Bear Tour event here?
WILL MacKENZIE: Not on this golf course. I played 11 events on the Golden Bear Tour and I just won one, and that was at Emerald Dunes and Abacola (ph). It was like two different golf courses.
I've played this golf course pretty well. But I also made an 11 one time in a little Maverick Tour event on that 15th hole I think it is, the par 3, is it 15?

Q. The first part of the Bear Trap?
WILL MacKENZIE: The first part of the Bear Trap. Great little hole. I hear that's where Raymond sort of lost it. I think I made a 10 or 11 there and it sort of got funny at the end. The guy, one of my playing partners was starting to laugh at me. But I don't want to think that, you know, just hit it left of the green.
But it's a fantastic hole. You're going to have to get up there and hit good shots because there's no guarantee if you are in contention coming down the stretch, you're going to have to hit some great shot there, and 17. 16 as well. You've got to hit a pretty good tee shot and then a real nice approach.
18, they used to have the tee, you know, sort of short and left so you could almost take it over a piece of the corner and hit that green in two. And now it's way back to the right and you're going to have to do something special to get there in two. I think it's 600 yards.

Q. You know this course so well, obviously weather factors everything, but what would you guess the winning score is going to be?
WILL MacKENZIE: I don't know, I guess about 10- or 12-under. Guys are always going to shoot good scores, but it's going to -- I mean, when you have like No. 10, there's just so many holes that you're hitting mid- to long-irons into. But guys will shoot great scores. They are just great players out here.
I mean, on days -- I remember one of my first times I ever played, the first time I played Pebble, my second event ever on Tour, I played -- I think I played like a group or two in front Phil Mickelson and I shot 72 at Spyglass and he shot 62, that was in '05. I was like, these guys are so good. When they get going, they can just go. So no matter how tight the golf course is, no matter how deep the rough is, if somebody is on, guys, they will shoot great scores.
But I just can't see somebody shooting 15- or 18-under out here. I'm thinking 8- to 10-under.

Q. Hate to belabor the 11, but how many balls in the water was that?
WILL MacKENZIE: One, in two out, three in, four out, five out, six out -- I think I hit four or five balls in the water.

Q. And when did your playing partner start to laugh?
WILL MacKENZIE: On the third ball. Wind was blowing probably like 20 miles per hour in off the left and I was trying to hit me a little hook into that little back right pin. Not too smart. (Laughter).

Q. Is it always this windy here?
WILL MacKENZIE: It blows down here, about like this. You can have a day, we might have one day that it blows like three to five or five to eight or something, but it's going to probably blow 10 plus, maybe ten to 20 down here pretty consistently.

Q. Ten years ago, what would you expect you would be doing today?
WILL MacKENZIE: Ten years ago, '96 -- you know, I wasn't thinking -- I didn't have a lot of foresight at that moment in my career.
I definitely did not I think would be here. At that time I was not thinking about golf. I had no -- you know, I had no desire to play. I thought I would just be a normal Joe living out in Montana. I had a nice little setup going. But you know, I figured -- I didn't know what I was going to be doing. Something in one of the, you know, sports I was doing. Something in kayaking or something in snowboarding, you know, Big Sky patrol I was working. I was thinking about becoming like I said earlier a flight paramedic or something. I had my EMT and I was studying that emergency medicine and I really enjoyed it.

Q. I looked and it said that Payne Stewart brought you back into golf; what exactly got you back into the sport?
WILL MacKENZIE: Watching that '99 Open, I was overwhelmed with how amazing it was. I mean, watching Phil and him battle it out, I just -- it just sort of blew me away. I was so excited. I was riveted, I was sitting there just really into it. I was always the guy that had the talent that didn't -- wasn't making anything of it, you know, wasn't using it. "Why did you quit, Bud, you could have done something with it, you might have made it on Tour."
You know, I left all those I was always sort of the good athlete and I think I might have had some expectations on me that I just didn't want to live up to or that I wanted to get away from early, and that took me away from it. Then I wanted -- you know, when I saw that I was at a time when I wanted to focus on something, I didn't just want to be pretty good at a lot of things; I wanted to be really good at something. And it was going to be hard to do in those other sports I was doing because you beat your body up and your life cycle in those are not very long. There's not many 35-, 40-year-old, you know, top-tier kayakers or snowboarders.
So it was just a circumstance of seeing Payne win, and hanging out in the flatlands of eastern North Carolina, not much to do, making no money. It was just the right timing for me. It struck a chord that said, well, maybe I did sort of have some talent and wasn't using it, and now it's time to see if I can try to use my talents.

Q. To be off doing all of those other things for that stretch of time, and then be able to come back to golf, it comes pretty naturally to you; how do you be away from it that long and just --
WILL MacKENZIE: You know, I laid a great foundation. I was a really good junior golfer. I had a lot of ability. I was pretty good at whatever I did.
Yeah, I mean, I don't know. I'm sure that someone of equal talent or equal heart and desire could have done the same thing. I mean, I'm sure there's other guys that might be able to do it as well. I don't know, I just started practicing. I was determined to come back and determined to get here and I wasn't going to let anything -- hey, wake up back there.

Q. I'm not sleeping.
WILL MacKENZIE: Oh, yes, you are. You're absorbing this. The wisdom of my story. (Laughter).
I was just really bound and determined. I was like: This is the way it's going to be. I'm not going to miss a day. I'm not going to miss a beat. I'm going to do whatever it takes to get back.
And then, in five years or something, you know, plus a lot of people were laying the lines on me, "How long are you going to do this? Are you going to give this two years; are you going to give this three years, five years?"
I said, if I make it on the senior tour, then I've -- you know, that will be that. I'm just going to keep playing until I just know that I'm not good enough, or I know I am good enough.

Q. Now that you are out here and you look back at kayaking, snow boarding years, how much more valuable are those years to you now that you had those experiences?
WILL MacKENZIE: I think they are getting more valuable, you know, every day. I don't really think about it too much. I'm really trying to, you know, become a good golfer. I'm really trying to work on, you know, getting to the point where I stay out here year-in and year-out. That's the key. So I've got a lot of stuff on my plate as is.
Yeah, I'm going to cherish -- I went back to Big Sky, Montana for the first time in seven years the week of AT&T Pebble Beach and I mean, I just had people -- I've got the same people. It looks like me everywhere, guys that are still there. You know, I'm real happy I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm happy to have done what I did.
But you know, this is the point of my life where I am now, and I'm sure I'm just going to relish those moments and reminisce a lot about, you know, staying in the van over and over and over, and snowboarding some unbelievable terrain, kayaking and doing multi-day trips in Idaho, a lot of overnight trips. You know, I just had some amazing, fun experiences that it can be taken away from me.
So I think as I get older, I'll really enjoy them, soak them in a little more. Right now, I don't even really think about it. I just go out and hit balls and try to get better at golf. I still have such a long way to go. I mean, I think I can get better.

Q. Ever get chased by a bear?
WILL MacKENZIE: You know, I've never been chased by a bear. But I've seen a lot of bears, but haven't had one running after me. I probably would never go into the fetal position if a grizzly was coming at me. I'd probably run, and then he'd really attack me. He'd maul me. You're supposed to just get down in the fetal position and let him rip up -- pop you for about 300 stitches real quick and hopefully he leaves you and not eats you.

Q. What was the total period of time you were kind of divorced from the game? I'm trying to remember, I think I read a story about you in the Raleigh paper that when you did go back, the clubs were still in the garage in your high school bag.
WILL MacKENZIE: I quit tournament golf my last tournament, like summer tournaments, was the summer I was 14 years old. I played in 9th and 10th grade high school for my high school team for, you know, reasons I didn't really like school too much at that period, and I played because I could get out early, school. Because we played 18-hole matches, so we were getting out real early.
And I wasn't -- my work ethic was out the window. I mean, I was no longer competing. I was just playing in high school. I was still good. You know, I was already sort of on my way out. So maybe 16 or 17 -- 16.

Q. And started again?

Q. Nine years?
WILL MacKENZIE: (Nodding).

Q. Assuming you were filing with the IRS, what was your leanest year?
WILL MacKENZIE: I was getting money back every year.

Q. Wow.
WILL MacKENZIE: Oh, yeah. Well, I wasn't filing very much. (Laughter) Allgood's Bar and Grill, it was strictly a cash thing and most of my jobs were cash. I don't know, I was probably making about $10,000 or $20,000 a year maybe.

Q. What was the low point; was there a low point?
WILL MacKENZIE: Just injuries. There was no low point. I didn't -- I never thought, oh, I could be doing something else. I was always like, this is it. This is what I want to be doing.
Like I said before, I wanted to -- I'm one of the ones that didn't want to work real hard when I was young and then enjoy it when I was older. I kicked that one out the door. I decided to play real hard and get by, and then probably have to work when I'm older, because y'all got money saved up; I didn't, or I don't. So it was mainly just when I was injured and I was making my living in sports that were -- you know, I was also working in cooking and doing dishes and doing -- but mainly I was working using my body. So when I was injured, you know, you didn't realize how wonderful it is to be healthy. You know, you would always -- it would just be really tough.

Q. You and Hank didn't have any fun when you were rooming together, did you?
WILL MacKENZIE: I had a lot of fun. Henry, you know, he helped me out a lot. He just put a roof over my head and food in my belly and let me play at finely-manicured golf courses that -- the crème de la crème, you know, the Bear's Club. I used to practice at the Bear's Club every day with him when he would come home.
Yeah, we had a blast. He was mighty, mighty good to me. He really jump started my career I think, because in '02 I was playing the Canadian Tour and I made $11,000. You're not going to do too good on $11,000. So when I moved in with him he really believed in me. He almost started believing in me more than I believed in myself.
So he told me I could be great, or be good. He told me I could be good. He told me I could make it. And he was just starting to make it then. You know, got me in touch with the right people and got me playing with the right people. You know, that was really nice. That was fantastic because I was still sort of living a little nomadic -- trying to live my former lifestyle as a golfer, and it's just really tough to do, you know, by just pinching pennies and really just, okay. I'll shower at the PGA National facility when I come here and play. You know, you've got to spend money to make money, there's no doubt about it.

Q. Is Henry playing now?
WILL MacKENZIE: No. Well, I think he's practicing now, or about to start practicing. He's been -- I haven't been talking to him much but he's been pretty much injured.

Q. Have you seen him since you've been back down here?
WILL MacKENZIE: Yeah, I saw him this week.
Did I answer your question? Not really? (Laughing).
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Will, thanks.

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