Friday, June 25, 2004 | 9:44 a.m.
In her first season of high school golf, Mackenzie Mack emerged as a star for Cimarron-Memorial. She earned medalist honors numerous times, earned a berth in the 4A state tournament and finished tied for ninth in that field of Nevada's best high school players.
Not too bad a start for a girl barely old enough to drive, right?
"That's not high. Top 10 is not high," Mack said of her state tournament finish. "For playing since I was 5 (years old), I should be at least top five."
Mack's goals are obviously very high heading into her junior year at Cimarron, and she hopes to accomplish plenty before August. Mack, who shot a final-round 79 Thursday to finish with a 22-over 235 in this week's Las Vegas Founders Junior Golf Championship at Angel Park, is playing a loaded juniors schedule this summer, with her eyes cast toward exposure for herself on a national level.
"I hope to get my name out there so people can see me," Mack said.
To see Mack is to witness an effortless golf swing honed from a young age. To see Mack is also to see someone rare at the higher levels of junior golf: a successful young minority player who views golf as her sport of choice.
Her mother, Jean Jackson, introduced Mackenzie and her younger sister Sydnee to the game as children. Talent and plenty of practice are helping the girls to establish themselves as rising stars.
Mackenzie's success is emblematic of the changing face of a game that is trying to become more inclusive not only to different cultures, but to everyone beyond the traditional country club set in the age of Tiger Woods.
"I like playing the game," Mack said. "Even when you shoot those 90s, it's fun."
Mack said she has seen increasing numbers of young players from minority backgrounds in recent years, but only at developmental stages of the game. She began playing golf before the dawn of most of golf's newer initiatives to diversify the game, but still takes part in programs such as the First Tee.
"For the First Tee program, it's a lot of people there," Mack said. "But when you come to AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) events or IJGT (International Junior Golf Tour) or bigger events that actually matter, not at all."
Golf is making an effort to economically and culturally expand a sport regarded as too expensive for many and that had 90 percent of its overall participation from whites as recently as 2002, according to statistics from the First Tee program and the National Golf Foundation.
In 2003, based on a sizable survey sample, 50 percent of The First Tee participants nationwide were white, 29 percent black, 12 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian and 4 percent of other descent. Those are the highest percentages of minority participation in the three years that the First Tee has tracked cultural backgrounds.
Of course, when Mack tries to do a little pleasant personal outreach to her friends, she is met with skepticism.
"They think it's easy," Mack said with a smile. "I'm like, 'It's not that easy.' I get them out here and they're hitting it all over the place. It's pretty funny."
With her game, Mack can laugh all the way to the top of Nevada juniors. She will play events in Oregon, Kansas, California and Florida this summer.
"The competition level is very high and you have to play some golf," Mack said. "You have to come to play."