Vernon’s Mackenzie Barrie gets in some putting practice at Vernon Golf and Country Club.

Vernon’s Mackenzie Barrie gets in some putting practice at Vernon Golf and Country Club.

Barrie leaning toward the links

Golf or hockey? For 16-year-old Mackenzie Barrie, it’s almost decision time as she maps out her future in sport and education.

She’s long off the tee and very good when skating with the puck.

Hmm. Golf or hockey? For 16-year-old Mackenzie Barrie, it’s almost decision time as she maps out her future in sport and education.

“The cut-off for scholarships is November,” said Barrie, who, if she chooses golf, would love to play in California or Arizona.

“I’m still trying to decide. I’m leaning towards golf because it seems like more of a career path and it’s easier on the body. I fell in love with golf this summer. There are more options. I’d like to be a pro coach or get into physiotherapy. The two combined would be awesome.”

Barrie has a hectic summer golf tournament schedule, starting with the B.C. Amateur, July 3-6, in Christina Lake, followed by the B.C. Junior Girls, July 10-13, in Osoyoos, the B.C. Summer Games, July 19-22, at Hazelmere in Surrey, and the B.C. Juvenile, Aug. 21-23, in Princeton.

To reach tournament-ready status, Barrie banged around a set of plastic clubs as a tyke. She later played Hillview Executive with her dad, Jamie, and her older brother, Conor, a goalie with the B.C. Hockey League Surrey Eagles.

Three years ago, she began playing at the Vernon Golf & Country Club, winning the junior girls title her second year. She was the Zone 2 junior champion last year in Revelstoke, and this year, shot 79-83 to earn one of two spots on the Zone team.

“When I first started playing Vernon, I was shooting around 100, but now I’m down to the low 80s except for the Summer Games qualifier (at Vernon) when I was 86-87, the worst I’ve played this season.

“My drives are the best part of my game. I hit it around 250 and pretty straight. My putting comes and goes. Repetition is a huge part of getting better. I try and simulate a real game on the range by aiming for targets. I practise three hours a day four or five days a week. I love to practice which is a good trait to have. I’ll jump out and play with anyone; it’s a good way to meet people.”

The 5-foot-7 Barrie, who works in the back shop at the Vernon club, took winter indoor instruction at Urban Links from Sean Richardson, head pro of the Kelowna Driving Range. She has been under his tutelage for a year.

Richardson has also coached Seaton Sonic grad Conner Kozak, now with the UBC Thunderbirds, and Kelowna’s Megan Osland, of the San Jose State Spartans. Both enjoyed solid freshman golf seasons. Richardson says Barrie has the moxy for tournament play.

“Mackenzie reminds me a bit of Conner in the mental aspect of golf,” said Richardson, formerly of Predator Ridge. “Of all the kids I have coached, they best focus on the task at hand and not worry about the past and what’s going to happen.”

Richardson, who is talking to NCAA schools about the possibility of Barrie being able to play golf and hockey in a calendar year, says she matches up with Osland in driving distance.

“She’s green in tournament experience which may hold her back for a while, but she’s so mature,” said Richardson, who is amazed at how quickly Barrie has improved in a short time. “The B.C. Amateur at Christina Lake may be a little bit out of her league, but these are the girls she’s going to face in college. She’s capable of competing.”

Richardson said Barrie understands the important of grinding out putts, drives and wedges in practice, noting that she is a great athlete who “practises effectively.”

Barrie played Midget quad hockey in Kelowna last year and has made the provincial Under 16 and 18 teams. She skated in the B.C. Winter Games in Terrace, earning silver after the Okanagan lost to Fraser Lake.

She has been hampered somewhat on the ice by a pelvic injury, but says that won’t hold her back.

Barrie, whose mom, Tracey, doesn’t play golf but is one of her biggest fans, has battled diabetes since age 10.

“My mom and I were at a hockey tournament In Trail when I was diagnosed and I spent some time in the hospital. You have to watch your levels and it’s manageable. Anna-Jane Eathorne (pro at Predator) told me there are a number of players on Tour with diabetes.”

Barrie plays a little tennis with friends and relatives and watches with interest her brother’s hockey career.

“He’s a good role model; he gets good marks and he’s hoping to get a scholarship next year like Surrey’s No. 1 goalie (Andrew Hunt) did this year.”