It has long been referred to as the gentlemen’s game in it illustrious history, but for a sport that grew to hold that notoriety of being an exclusive boys only club, women are breaking through to dominate the game of golf one stroke at a time. For the Mt. SAC Women’s Golf team, the sport represents an opportunity for its athletes to showcase their passion and abilities on the course, and show the world just how much it can be a proud lady’s game too.
Mackenzie Kelly, 18, currently majoring in kinesiology, is one of many young women taking her talents to the golf course and dominating the sport across the nation. The Eastvale native from Roosevelt High School was first introduced to golf by her father Matt, who ingrained in her not only an understanding that she could dominate whatever she set her mind to, but also simply a love and passion for sports.
“I played softball since I was 5 up until sophomore year of high school, so I’ve always been into sports and when I was little my dad used to take me out golfing but it was never a competitive thing, it was just for fun,” Kelly said. “So sophomore year when I stopped playing softball, at the same time I started playing golf and so that was when I started playing more competitively.”
Kelly’s parents, Matt and Susan, have been supportive in her athletic career, helping her learn that just like the serenity found in golf, life is about balance.
“My parents are involved in my school and my athletics so they taught me early on how to balance it, and school always comes first,” Kelly said. “So if you don’t get your homework done then you can’t go to practice; it’s how I was raised and so it’s not a problem for me. I haven’t had to face any problems yet.”
Now a freshman at Mt. SAC, Kelly has done exceptionally well with the Women’s Golf team, landing her first career hole-in-one on Sep. 1 at the Desert Classic this year, a feat that currently remains the only hole-in-one for the team this year.
“That was great. It was crazy,” Kelly said recalling her elation for that moment. “We were in a group of four counting myself and one of the girls said, ‘Alright guys I need to see a hole-in-one today,’ and she was just joking around.”
Near the end of the Desert Classic, even Kelly didn’t expect just how close to prophecy her performance would pan out.
“We almost finished and it was the 16th hole. All it took was a stroke and that’s when I made the hole-in-one,” Kelly said. “My friend yelled, ‘Bro I told you I called it,’ All I said was, ‘Dang you did,’ so it was a cool moment.”
Greg Osbourne, a member of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, has coached Mt. SAC’s Women’s Golf team since 2015 and played a pivotal role Kelly’s decision to become a Mountie.
“Norco College and Riverside College were the closest junior colleges and I didn’t really want to go to the closest ones. I wasn’t sure what major I wanted to be in so I don’t think I wanted to go to a four year yet so I was kind of on the fence about that,” she explains. “Then I met with coach Osbourne and he was really nice and really supportive, so that set my mind.”
Osbourne recalled one of his first instances meeting Kelly and her father at a golf tournament in Temecula as the moment he saw Kelly’s potential for greatness.
“She was just getting ready to hit when I walked up and it looked like I was recruiting a 12-year-old girl with a crazy swing,” Osbourne said. “I just needed to get her to see how simple really the golf swing is; everything is in pre-shot routine, it’s the way you set up.”
Kelly had filled out the prospective athlete information request form at Mt. SAC and various other colleges, but her decision to become a Mountie was one she didn’t have to ponder for too long.
“[Osbourne] was the fastest one that emailed me back and this was the beginning of my senior year which I thought was cool,” Kelly said. “He brought me down and we took a tour of the athletic offices and the practice area and he was just really nice.”
For Greg Osbourne, Kelly’s decision speaks to the level of quality the Mountie golf program exhibits and serves to promote it as an attractive destination for high school prospects.
“She had some opportunities to go to other places and she chose here, so when someone chooses to play here, the loyalty factor for me really comes out and that’s the number one thing,” Osbourne said.
Kelly finished in a tie for 10th place at the California Community College Athletic Association SoCal Championships and punched herself a ticket to destiny’s doorstep, being one of six individual athletes there to qualify for the CCCAA Women’s Golf State Championships.
“It feels good. I’ve never made it as a further level so this first time, it feels good. I’m excited,” Kelly said.
Four teams qualified for the state championship followed by the next six best individual athletes at the SoCal Championships, and though her achievement was a monumental one, Kelly remained humble about what she had accomplished.
“I just like playing sports and I like being on teams, and I never expected to go on and play in college until I got to senior year. Then I just kept going with it.”
At the two-day CCCAA Women’s Golf State Championships, which began on Nov. 12, Kelly finished 19th overall in the individual competition, shooting 80 and 81 in each respective day of the tournament. This capped an impressive first year for the freshman from Roosevelt High, though she now sets her sights onto next year and the challenges that await her.
“It was exciting, I was actually surprised that I made it to state and that I did so well this year,” Kelly said. “I hope to improve much more coming up next year and I hope to be at state, to do better and hopefully our team can make it to state next year too.”
Though coach Osbourne remains excited for Kelly's future with the program, he still recognizes the monumental impact of Kelly's performance this year as a Mountie.
“The whole school, the administration, our athletic directors, and of course myself more than anybody, are all very proud of her,” Osbourne said.
With the Mt. SAC Women’s Golf program pressing forward onto next year, Kelly remains motivated and ambitious about game and the desire to bring a state championship to the college.
“I think it would bring in a lot of other golfers that wouldn’t normally think about going to a junior college or Mt. SAC specifically,” Kelly said.
Mackenzie Kelly, at only 18 years old, has not only found her passion but manages to balance it with her academic career. Even at her young age, Kelly is determined to maintain that balance long-term, remaining hopeful and excited for her future.
“I would like to transfer to a four year, hopefully with a golf scholarship, and I would like to keep playing and just see where it takes me,” Kelly said. “If I enjoy it a lot like I am now then I would love to play professionally.”
Until then, Kelly offers the one piece of advice that has helped her dominate this sport and make it her own to the next crop of talent wishing to play the beautiful game.
“Just come to practice and never slack off,” she said.