DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Paige Mackenzie walked onto the seventh tee box at LPGA International and looked to older brother Brock, her caddie, for advice.
“Aim at the green,” Brock said, with a faint smile.
Paige muttered something presumably unflattering in response and walloped a drive down the middle of the straight-away par 4. It was Monday at LPGA Q-School, and the Mackenzie’s deep sibling bond was evidenced by constant banter. While other players were so choked up they could barely say hello at Q-School, Paige allowed a reporter and photographer to get up-close-and-personal on Florida’s East Coast.
“Paige is always pretty relaxed,” said Brock, who like Paige, played golf at the University of Washington. Brock competed on the ’03 Walker Cup team and Paige was tabbed for the ’06 Curtis Cup.
Two years ago they were on opposite coasts. While Paige, 25, toiled at LPGA International, Brock, 27, went through PGA Tour Q-School in California. Paige earned exempt status for her rookie year while Brock settled for the still-lucrative Nationwide Tour. Their parents, Hugh and Caren, spent the week with Brock in La Quinta. Paige stayed in the guest room of LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who made chili for the aspiring rookie.
This time around the whole Mackenzie clan was in Daytona, kicking back in a high-rise condo on the Atlantic Ocean. Paige picked her brother up from the airport late Sunday night and let him sleep in while she worked up a sweat Monday morning at the gym.
“It’s amazing how much my flexibility has improved,” said Paige, who looked like a burnt pretzel as she stretched her muscles in an all-black Nike garb. Mackenzie recently moved to Phoenix and started working with trainer Steve Heller. She was eager to show Brock the new routine later in the week, once his muscles had recovered from extensive yard work.
Back at the condo, Paige put together her usual breakfast of champions: blueberry yogurt, fat-free cottage cheese and a banana. Brock looked surprisingly refreshed after his cross-country flight. He failed to advance to the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School, but still had reason to smile. Shortly after arriving at the Callaway Golf Pebble Beach Invitational, Brock proposed to fiancé Hannah Moore. She said “yes,” just before the bagpipes rolled through Spanish Bay. (That explains the yard work.)
“It would’ve been a great week if Tommy Armour III hadn’t drained a bomb on me,” said Mackenzie, who lost to Armour in a three-way playoff.
“My future mother-in-law doesn’t like my job, but that’s the least of my concerns.”
The last time Brock looped for Mackenzie was the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open, where she tied for 12th.
“I usually only do majors,” Brock said. “There are high expectations out of me.”
Paige and Brock talk on the phone at least twice a week. Even though the siblings play golf together roughly a half-dozen times per year, they know each other’s games inside and out.
Brock praised Paige’s wind game was especially impressed with her “three-quarter soft arm shot.” He admits she’s more disciplined, choosing to practice on her own while he plays for money with the guys.
“I haven’t taught her anything,” he says, jokingly. “That’s why she’s playing (in Q-School finals) and I’m not.”
Paige has status for 2009, no matter what happens at Q-School: “It’s my choice to be here.” She ended her second season with more energy than the first. She also ended the year with more money, even though her ranking dropped from 118th to 120th.
Both Paige and Brock began working with Stan Utley on their putting earlier this season. They’re using a more athletic, natural stroke that relies on the hands. The excitement comes through in their voices.
“It feels more like it did when we were younger,” Paige said. “You don’t try to throw a ball with you shoulders.”
Sidelined with back injuries in college, Paige now has a clean bill of health. Although she did feel pain this summer when she chunked a wedge on the range.
“Pretty athletic, huh?” she said with a laugh.
Brock, of course, couldn’t let that story go without giving little sis’ a good jab. After all, part of his job on the bag was to keep things light.
If Monday was any indication, they had no problem.