By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Paige Mackenzie had never been to Joplin before Sunday, but she said it was well worth the short drive from Rogers, Ark.
Mackenzie was one of 20 LPGA tour professionals who were at Eagle Creek Golf Club on Monday for the Mercy Joplin LPGA Pro-Am Golf Classic. The event, for the third straight year, took advantage of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, held at Rogers’ Pinnacle Country Club over the weekend.
“I think it’s great, in general, to see communities come together and put on an event like this for fundraising,” Mackenzie said. “It’s nice that the LPGA has been invited and that we have players so close down the road in Rogers who are able to make the trip and support the event.”
Mackenzie, in her seventh year on the LPGA tour, missed the cut in Rogers and also missed out on playing in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open in Southampton, N.Y.
But, on the bright side, she will be a guest analyst on The Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” show from Wednesday to Sunday.
“I’m excited about it. It’s fun to be on the other side,” she said. “It’s hard to evaluate your peers, I’ll give you that. I can’t say anything too harsh because I have to see them next week. But it will be fun to sit in the chair and be an analyst for once.”
Mackenzie, a native of Yakima, Wash., and a former All-American for the Washington Huskies, said the highlight of the day was playing with the group of four she was assigned to.
“For me it was just the group I played with. We had a great group of guys who had a fun time, and I think that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “You want golf to be fun regardless of whether it’s a competition or fundraising or whatever. It was really about having a fun day.”
Meredith Duncan, a 10th-year LPGA player from Louisiana, was using the event as some extra practice to help her transition back into the game after sitting much of the early season out with a back injury.
“I haven’t played much this year at all,” she said, adding that last week was her first tournament. “I’m finally getting myself back into it.”
Duncan was making a return trip to Joplin. She was on hand for the first two events, both of which were at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club.
“It’s just perfect, being in Rogers. It’s just a quick jump over here,” she said. “We know with the tornado hitting here a few years ago that there are a lot of people who still need help.
“There are a lot of charity events we can play in. We know how hard it is to raise money for a good cause, and it’s just nice to be able to help out in any way we can.”