Daly City, Calif. – Follow Brogan McKinnon on Twitter and you will quickly find out she recently attended a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game at Fenway Park, paid a visit to Alcatraz and went shopping the morning prior to her first round at the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
“It was fun,” said the 17-year-old Canadian of her side trips. “I’m trying to fly in a few days early this year and get around the cities [I’m competing in].”
But once McKinnon gets to the first tee, the fun goes away. The smile is quickly replaced by a stern game face. Even acknowledgement from dad goes unnoticed. McKinnon just walks straight toward her next shot. Maybe there’s time to chat with caddie/good friend Connor Ingleson, but that’s about it.
Watching the Mississauga, Ontario, resident during Tuesday’s final round of stroke-play qualifying at Lake Merced Golf Club and one could see the business-like approach. While the 4-over-par 76 wasn’t exactly the result she was seeking, especially after the impressive even-par 72 Monday in the windy conditions, McKinnon understands the scores from the past two days are now meaningless.
She’s achieved her primary goal of making match play. On Wednesday, she’ll get a first-round opponent and any past results will be moot.
“I think [match play] really suits my game and personality,” said the long-hitting McKinnon, who won the Toronto Star Women’s Amateur in 2010 at 15. “I didn’t really come here to get medalist. I came to win.”
The oldest of five girls, all of whom have unusual first names – Rheagan, Tennyson, Austyn and Qwynn – Brogan was the only one who gravitated to golf; the other four are competitive dancers.
Twelve years ago, McKinnon started hitting golf balls in the backyard and her parents saw a genuine interest. They signed her up for golf lessons where her instructor was Toronto-based Sean Foley. Yes, the same Sean Foley who works with some of the game’s greats such as Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose. Back then, Foley was a relatively unknown teaching pro and McKinnon has maintained that pro/student relationship for nearly a decade.
McKinnon even spends six months a year in Florida, where the family rents a house, playing out of Reunion Resort and taking lessons from Foley at Orange County National. Since the seventh grade, McKinnon has been home-schooled, so all of her classes are taken online. She graduated this past spring, but isn’t planning to attend college. She’ll instead focus on her golf as an amateur until she feels the time is right to turn professional, although she has no specific timetable.
“It was a tough decision, but I think it’s just best for what my goals are and my personality,” said McKinnon, who likely is making the plethora of Division I coaches here recruiting this week dejected that they can’t land this talented teen.
McKinnon is currently on a five-week odyssey that’s taken her to Boston, where she qualified for next month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline (ironically the Women’s Am is being conducted at The Country Club in Cleveland), to San Francisco (U.S. Girls’ Junior) to Alberta (Canadian Women’s Amateur and Canadian Girls’ Junior) and to Ohio (Women’s Amateur).
Originally signed up to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in North Carolina, McKinnon changed sites prior to the entry deadline when her father noticed one of the qualifiers was at The Country Club.
Even when informed she wouldn’t get a practice round, McKinnon wanted to play the historic course that has hosted the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup Matches. She went on YouTube and researched the club’s incredible history, which included Francis Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open victory over British stalwarts Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, and Justin Leonard’s birdie putt at the 17th hole in Sunday singles that clinched an amazing U.S. Ryder Cup comeback in 1999.
To make the trip even sweeter, her father secured Red Sox tickets against the Yankees at Fenway Park.
“I’m a [Toronto Blue] Jays fan, but it was nice to see the Red Sox and Yankees,” she said. “It was crazy.”
McKinnon added to the experience by shooting a 75 to qualify for the Women’s Amateur.
It was then off to San Francisco, where she took photos of herself in a jail cell at Alcatraz prior to the start of the U.S. Girls’ Junior, her first USGA championship. Last year, McKinnon qualified for the Women’s Amateur, but had to withdraw with a right wrist injury. The injury occurred earlier in the year while hitting balls off mats at a Canadian tournament. She tried to play through the pain before withdrawing midway through the Canadian Girls’ Junior. Surgery wasn’t required, but McKinnon was sidelined the remainder of the summer.
Healthy in 2012, McKinnon is making up for the lost time and in good form.
“She’s probably one of the longer girls off the tee out here for sure,” said Ingleson, an 18-year-old business major at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, who has been friends with McKinnon since they were 12 years old. “The par 5s, not many of the girls can hit the par 5s in two the way she does. She’s got a lot of wedges in [to holes] when a lot of girls are hitting 8-irons.”
Ingleson said he is doing his best to bring some levity to the intense atmosphere, whether it’s telling a joke or simply keeping her calm in a tense situation. McKinnon admitted that her family is competitive in virtually every activity, so it’s an inherent trait that naturally carries over to the golf course.
That kind of focus and determination should serve McKinnon well in match play.
And keep the sightseeing on hold.
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.