McKenzie Lyng’s love for golf prompted her to turn professional in 2012 and, following an appearance on the Golf Channel’s hit “Big Break” series, it also led to her becoming an entrepreneur. She is co-founder of BackSwing Golf Events with friend and fellow golfer Amanda Robertson. The business has a group of lady touring professionals who bring something unique and fun to corporate and charity golf events. She is also a new mom to eight-week old Brayden and she and her husband can’t wait to teach him golf.
Compete: When did you start playing golf, McKenzie? Did you start as a young child?
McKenzie Lyng: No. I was 16 years old when I started to play. I never liked golf growing up. I actually played competitive softball and traveled all over the country competing in tournaments.
C: Then what was it that got you interested in golf?
ML: Honestly, I chose to play golf more as a joke with one of my other friends. We both played softball and thought we’d do something in the fall since softball season was in the spring. It wasn’t until after college that I really fell in love with the game and knew it was something I wanted to do long-term.
C: Was your family supportive of your decision?
ML: My family was very supportive. I have two younger sisters and my dad had always wanted us to play golf. We just never had any interest in it until we got older. My parents always let us play whatever sports we wanted and never pushed us, which was nice.
C: What were your early golf experiences like?
ML: I started playing golf as a high school sophomore so I was definitely behind in the golf world. I was just trying to do something fun on the side. I was pretty good when I started which motivated me to keep practicing.
C: Once you went to college did your golf experiences change?
ML: At age 17 I had been playing for only one year but I was approached by a couple of different colleges. I had always planned on playing softball in college until this point. Basically, what I heard from the college coaches was, “You’ve come this far in just one short year; we want to work with you and give you the opportunity to really excel.” They told me that I would have to be a walk-on to start but could potentially earn a scholarship. They said that even if it would be hard to do, they were happy to have me on the team.
I decided I wanted to go to a Division I school where everyone was better than me because I knew that would only push me to work harder. If I went to a smaller school where I was the number one player, I wouldn’t have anything to work for or towards. So I chose to attend Kent State University in Ohio and competed for four years on their golf team and also earned a degree in marketing.
I didn’t compete in one golf event in my freshman year – the talent was stacked. Kent State had recruited girls from Argentina, Canada and New Zealand while I was just this girl from Akron, Ohio. It frustrated me that they were all better than me. So in my freshman summer I moved to Arizona to work on my game and give it 100 percent. When I returned, I qualified for my first college tournament at Michigan State which shocked everyone. I then made my way to earning a scholarship and participating in many college golf events.
C: How have your professional golf experiences stacked up, McKenzie? Are they all you expected?
ML: I attended the LPGA Qualifying School in 2012 and ended up missing the cut by one shot; you can only attempt qualifying school once a year so then it became a grind. After missing the qualifier, I competed on the Cactus Tour based in Arizona as well as the Canadian Tour. I also participated in many state opens across the country, playing in anything to help better my game and strengthen my mental mindset. My best finish was second place. I had been close to winning but just hadn’t gotten there yet.
C: Then how did you get cast in “Big Break Mexico?”
ML: In 2012 the Golf Channel was holding auditions in Arizona for their hit “Big Break” series. Some of my friends were trying out so I figured why not. There are about 10,000 people who audition for this show – the season I was auditioning for was going to be using six guys and six girls. The producers interviewed me and then videoed my swing; that was it. They said they’d be in touch “if we like you,” so I didn’t expect to hear from them. When I got the call saying I’d been chosen, I had no idea where it was going to be filmed. All I knew was we were leaving in January.
C: What was it like being on the program?
ML: “Big Break Mexico” was awesome but I was SO NERVOUS. The show is a team competition but each season is different. This one was three teams of four and we competed for money and prizes. It gave me the confidence to compete on a big stage. Although this wasn’t a tournament, I knew that everyone was going to be watching it live on TV. I ended up getting eliminated on the sixth episode. Our team was great but we sure didn’t compete well together. It was one of the best times of my life, though and it jump-started my career.
C: In what way?
ML: I continued playing on the same tours and returned to qualifying school three more times. I came up shy all three times. At this point Amanda Robertson and I had already created BackSwing Golf Events and I decided to move full force into making it a success. It’s not that I was quitting golf; I just needed some space from it. Playing 25 events a year and traveling non-stop across the country gets tiring. After getting married in 2014 my priories had changed and in 2016 we decided to start a family. My golf career isn’t over; it’s just taken a turn in a different direction for the time being.
C: Why did you start your BackSwing Golf Events and what is its mission?
ML: Amanda and I started BackSwing Golf Events to help ourselves and our friends make side money to help with tour costs. We also love adding value to golf events and helping charities raise extra money but we didn’t think that it would turn into a thriving business. Our mission is to bring something fun and engaging to corporate and charity golf events. Not only are we personable, we also share stories and insights about our mental and physical golf skills. We love helping charities raise extra money for their foundations and we love bringing smiles to golfers’ faces as they interact with us.
C: What are some of the charity groups you have worked with?
ML: We have worked with a lot of worthwhile groups: the Boys and Girls Club; UMOM New Day Centers; Military Assistance Mission; Sons of Arizona; Compadres; Silent Witness; ICAN; Children’s Hospital and Dignity Health to name just a few. For more, check our website at www.backswinggolfevents.com.
C: What words of wisdom do you have for would-be professional golfers just starting in the sport?
ML: I would tell an up and coming professional to work harder than you think you need to. If you aren’t committing 80 percent of your day to golf then you’re not in the right sport. It is the hardest sport to compete in, mostly because it’s so mentally challenging. Committing to this lifestyle has to be your full time job, so work hard and practice every day.
C: What is on the horizon for you and for BackSwing Golf Events?
ML: I am fully committed to growing Backswing Golf Events and my plan is to help grow the number of events this year to 100. I also plan to play my first competitive event in May. I am not giving up on playing professionally even though my priorities have definitely shifted. I became a mom on January 4, 2017 so I am going to be the best mom, business owner and golfer I can be!
As far as the business is concerned, we have hired a Vegas rep and are continuing to grow. I truly believe we can achieve our goal of 100 events this year and in the process, help more charities not only raise extra money but also make sure their players are entertained and having a great experience.
C: Thank you for sharing your story with Compete readers, McKenzie. We wish you much continued success as “the best mom, business owner and golfer” you can be.
By Miriam Latto