William Woods teammates share double-eagle bond

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Julian Taylor, left, and Billy McKenzie

Julian Taylor remembers picking Billy McKenzie out of the crowd at the English Amateur in July and walking a few holes with McKenzie at Frilford Heath Golf Club. Taylor, who had won his match, 6 and 5, knew McKenzie, who lost on the 19th hole, would be his teammate at William Woods University, an NAIA school in Fulton, Mo., in the fall. Suddenly, the bond is much stronger than that for the two Englishmen.

Taylor, a junior, and McKenzie, a freshman, pulled off a rare double Oct. 1 at the William Woods Invitational. Each double eagled the par-5 17th at Tanglewood Golf Course, the Owls’ home course, within 30 minutes of each other. While one albatross is rare, William Woods’ story is practically unheard of.

“I’ve played for 10 years,” Taylor said. “I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one.”

McKenzie, in the No. 3 position in William Woods’ lineup, played the hole first. With the wind in his face at the 509-yard hole, McKenzie hit a driver to 235 yards, then hit a 3-wood. It rolled across the green and dropped in the hole, and McKenzie began to go nuts. It was the first time in his career he had holed out from more than 80 yards.

Head coach Barry Doty watched McKenzie throw his arms in the air in celebration from across the course but wasn’t sure what happened. McKenzie replayed the hole for Doty, who left the course shortly after to pick up lunches at the clubhouse. As he delivered Taylor’s fare at the second tee, Doty relayed the story of McKenzie’s double eagle.

Taylor’s response: “Coach, I made one, too.”

Taylor, in the No. 1 position in the lineup, had hit his drive down the right side of the fairway and was 211 yards from the green. He pulled a rescue club and hit a high fade into the wind. He watched the ball hit the green, bounce right toward the hole, then disappear. An opponent was the first to point out that Taylor’s ball was actually in the hole.

McKenzie, meanwhile, had been telling anyone who would listen about his double eagle, and eventually encountered a coach who told him his teammate had made one, too.

“At first I was like, ‘That’s never going to happen,’” McKenzie said. “‘That’s a lie.’”

Taylor and McKenzie passed each other on opposite fairways later in the round, each aware of what the other had done.

“He put two fingers up and I put two fingers up,” Taylor said. “Then we started fist pumping.”

Taylor shot a final-round 67 and won the event at 6-under 138 for 36 holes. McKenzie, with a final-round 71, tied for third at even par.

Taylor’s and McKenzie’s double eagles are the first for a William Woods player in Doty’s 11 years as head coach. It’s fitting for what Doty calls his best team yet. Taylor may be the most accomplished player in program history.

Taylor won last year’s NAIA Golfstat Cup, awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average over the course of the season, and was the Phil Mickelson Award winner during his freshman season – a first for the Owls. He also advanced to match play at last year’s British Amateur.

As a team, William Woods handily won their own invitational that day at Tanglewood. The 28-shot margin of victory covered much more ground than what was built at No. 17.

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