Kline enjoys short LPGA stint

Associated Press

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. – MacKinzie Kline wouldn’t change a thing about her first LPGA Tour event, even though her score will keep her from receiving another invitation until next year.

Kline, the 15-year-old from California who was allowed to use a cart and oxygen because of a congenital heart defect, closed the Ginn Tribute with an 89, one over the LPGA Tour’s “88 rule” that Michelle Wie flirted with Thursday before dropping out.

Kline, the first player in LPGA history to ride a cart during her rounds because of a medical condition, was officially removed from the tournament because she scored 88 or more. She wouldn’t have made the cut at 31-over par after scores of 86-89, and now she can’t play in a tour event for the rest of the year.

“I’m just trying to work on my game” and not worry about scoring, Kline said. “Other than that, it was fun.”

Annika Sorenstam, the tournament’s host, said Kline had barely stopped smiling this week. “I know this is a dream for her,” Sorenstam said. “I’m happy that we were able to give her the opportunity.”

Kline was given a sponsor’s exemption by Sorenstam. The LPGA allowed her to use a cart and oxygen from Kline’s laptop-sized delivery system.

Kline was born with heterotaxy syndrome, meaning her heart has one ventricle instead of two. In addition, her liver was transverse and she did not have a spleen.

She had two open-heart surgeries before she turned 2. Last year, doctors discovered a hole in Kline’s heart that had to be fixed in another operation.

She may not yet measure up to LPGA standards, but Kline was thrilled with the experience – and more certain than ever the tour is her career path. “This is definitely what I want to do with my future,” she said.

Kline struggled with the long fairway carries and approach shots. “It was hard. It was difficult, but it was really, really fun,” she said.

Kline’s first nine Friday included a birdie on the par-4 sixth hole and four pars. But she also made a quadruple bogey 8 on the seventh hole.

She had a harder time on the back nine, with bogeys on her first six holes. She hit her layup shot on the par-5 16th into the hazard for a double bogey that put her at 15 over for the round and in danger of the 88.

But Kline, known as “Mac,” struck a beautiful tee shot over the marsh and a sand trap guarding the front to about 12 feet on the par-3 17th. Kline rolled in the birdie as her father, John, shouted, “Get in. Get in. Get in. Whoooo!”

Kline’s 9-year-old sister, Madison, whispered “Great shot, Mac,” as her cart drove to the 18th tee.

Mac’s chance to avoid the 88 ended when her drive went dead left into the marsh. She finished with a triple-bogey 7.

“As far as character building, we’re here to play golf,” said her father, John. “She scores what she scores and we live with it. I think that’s the way it should be done.”

After the round, Kline met with Wayne Smith, the chief operating officer of Ginn Golf. “You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Smith said. “We’re very proud of you and happy to have you here.”

Father and daughter expect growth in her game before she gets another LPGA chance.

Just as important, she said, was raising awareness for the Children’s Heart Foundation. Kline, a national spokeswoman for the organization, was glad to get her story out and enjoyed meeting fans who thanked her for coming.

Ginn Resorts announced a $20,000 donation to the foundation in Kline’s name. Spokesman Ryan Julison said the company will mail a video to members in hopes they’ll donate, too.

Kline will go on to USGA girl’s junior qualifying later this summer. There will be fundraisers and many more rounds of golf.

“I learned a lot from the LPGA ladies,” Kline said. “I’m just going to take away the experience of having fun and work harder at it.”

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