Originally created 05/23/01

Local golfer finds outlet for improvement



Somewhere between the end of the fall college golf season in 2000 and this spring, Jason McKenzie lost the ability to hit the fairway off the tee.

Accuracy off the tee "had been my forte," said the former Lakeside and current Mississippi State golfer.

Suddenly, it was gone. That explains why McKenzie's scoring average soared from 73.9 in the fall to 76.5 in the spring.

Compounding the problem was the penal way the courses in Mississippi are set up.

"They grow the rough two to three inches high," McKenzie said. "If you're hacking the ball out of the rough, you can't make pars and birdies that way."

Since school ended May 12, McKenzie has spent many hours at West Lake Country Club trying to rediscover his swing off the tee, or as he puts it, "get back to my old game."

He found it over the weekend in the Gordon Uhl/Golf Capital Invitational. McKenzie shot 71-72 to win by the Regions Cup event by one shot over Rusty Flanders and Jimmy Garren.

"I kept the ball in play and took my time," McKenzie said of his driving in the Golf Capital. "I stayed focused."

It was the first time McKenzie has been in contention in a Regions Cup event. He's played in a few over the years and plans to sign up for more this summer. First, McKenzie's going to take some summer courses at Mississippi State. They'll be over by late June.

"There are a ton of great golfers in the Georgia-Carolina area," McKenzie said. "These Regions Cup tournaments make you stay focused and keep you in tune. Out here they have about the same yardages they have in college. It's local, and you don't have to travel so far from home. They conduct and run these tournaments well. It's a great opportunity we have here."

DRIVE-IN: Sweetwater Road in Edgefield County will be heavily traveled in late September, when the LPGA Tour comes to Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club.

Fans attending the inaugural Asahi Ryokuken International Championship will make their way down the two-lane road and park at the site. There will not be a shuttle bus system, as is the case at some pro golf events.

"When you look at some of the great golf tournaments and the venues they're played at - take any of the U.S. Opens on Long Island - they're all on two-lane roads," said Steve Storm, the Asahi Ryokuken tournament director. "You go to Winged Foot for the last PGA Championship, that's a two-lane road."

"As long as you have in place good traffic control and signage and can keep a steady flow .. It might back up a little but, but you can get people in and out of an area," Storm said. "I know I'd rather wait a little bit in a car driving in and drive my own car than park 10 to 20 miles away and be shuttled in by bus. If you forget something in your car and you took the bus, you've got to go all the way back to get it."

PALMETTO: Dale Overcash defeated Frank Townsend 3 and 2 to win the Presidents Cup match play tournament. Jack Owens beat Jeff Biddle 4 and 3 to win the first flight, and Phil Hubacher defeated Doug Witt 2 and 1 to take the senior flight.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.