On the Hot Seat: Mackinzie Kline
Her full name is Mackinzie Kline, but you can just call her Mac.
The 15-year-old girl from Encinitas, Calif., is a golf sensation with a story. Born with only one heart ventricle (instead of two), she underwent two heart surgeries by the time she turned 2 years old, the effects of which remain as she often becomes fatigued on the golf course.
Kline hasn't let the condition adversely affect her game, however. The Children's Heart Foundation's national spokesperson will be playing as a sponsor's exemption in this week's Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika, using a cart equipped with an oxygen tank during the tournament rounds.
Before competing with the world's best players, she joined us on the Hot Seat to discuss a special phone call, her career goals and why using a cart isn't such a big deal.
Q: Tell me about how you received the exemption into the Ginn tournament.
A: My dad kind of told me that I might be invited to the Ginn, but then Annika called me.
Q: What was it like to hear from Annika?
A: It was really cool. It was very exciting.
A: No, not really. Not like the way she talked to me on my cell phone. I mean, I played with her at the Nokia Challenge, nine holes, and we talked a little bit. She was really nice. But then when she called me, it was really cool.
Q: So what exactly did she say to you?
A: First, she actually left a message and said she would call me later. So later that night she called me and said, "You know about this tournament that's going on?" And I said, "Yes, I do." And she said, "Well, I would love to invite you and I would love for you to come." I was really excited and I said yes. It was really exciting.
Q: I can imagine. That's kind of a no-brainer; you can't really say no to Annika, huh?
A: Yeah, someone saying no to her would be a little weird.
Q: Do you have a specific goal for the tournament?
A: Probably my biggest goal is just to go out there and have fun and really learn from other LPGA ladies I'll be playing with. Of course, I would love to make the cut; I'm a competitive person. But really, I'm just going to go out there and have a ton of fun and really learn from these LPGA ladies.
Q: Tell me about your game. How have you been playing lately? What's your best score?
A: I've been playing OK. I'm really working on my game right now. For my best score, I've shot 68.
Q: That's pretty good.
A: I was playing pretty good that day. [laughs]
Q: You had two open-heart surgeries before your second birthday and suffered a setback last year. What was that like?
A: Last summer, I was kind of tired all the time and dizzy. What we found out was that my oxygen level was decreasing, so they found out that around my heart there was a hole and my oxygen was kind of leaking through. I wasn't getting any oxygen through my blood, so it was going down.
Q: How scary was that for you?
A: It wasn't extremely scary to me; it was just more of, what will I have to do in order to play more golf? Also at the time, they really thought it was something different, but it turned out to be better than what they thought it was, so that was kind of exciting.
Q: How are you feeling these days?
A: I'm feeling good, much better. But still my oxygen level isn't going to be as high as other people's oxygen levels, but I feel a lot better.
Q: Are there some days you feel better than others?
A: Yes, definitely.
Q: Is there are reason for it or do you just randomly wake up one day not feeling well?
A: I don't know. I think most of the time it might be because I've been working really hard or I'm not getting enough sleep, but sometimes it's just random. I'll just wake up and I'll feel really bad that day.
Q: Can you compete in other sports?
Q: How many holes can you walk before becoming too fatigued to continue playing? Have you tried at all recently?
A: No, I really haven't tried recently, but before getting fatigued I could probably do nine holes. After nine holes, it would probably be hard for me. It also depends on how hilly the golf course is and how hot it is outside.
Q: If you use a cart, how many holes can you play?
A: Again, it just depends on how hot it is, but I can get through 15 holes without really having to use my oxygen. The back nine is where I really need to use my oxygen because I've been working harder and that's when I really have to start using it a lot -- more than the front nine.
Q: Do you think using a cart gives you an advantage over other players?
A: No, I really don't think it gives me an advantage.
Q: I think I know the answer to this already, but what do you want to be when you get older?
A: I would love to be a professional golfer.
Q: That's what I thought you were going to say. Is that the main goal right now?
A: Yes, it is.
Q: Do you think the fact that you're playing in an LPGA event and using a cart will pave the way for other players with similar illnesses or similar conditions to be able to use carts in events?
A: I think so. Hopefully, kids who want to play golf, but really need a cart will finally go, "OK, she's using this, so maybe I can use this, too," and they'll start playing golf. Hopefully, other kids that have problems like that will be able to play golf and have fun doing it.
Q: Tell me about your work with the Children's Heart Foundation.
A: Usually, I do fund-raisers, because most of all of the fund-raisers are golf events. I'll usually hit on one hole and I'll hit a shot for every group and I'll meet everyone and tell them I'm the national spokesperson for the Children's Heart Foundation. I tell them what I've done, what kind of heart condition I have. And then at the dinner afterward, I'll give a speech and thank them for coming out. It's really fun.
Q: Sounds like something that you'll continue doing for a long time.
A: I hope so. Definitely.
Q: Who's your favorite golfer?
A: Hmmm, I don't know. I've met quite a few of them because I've played in pro-ams and all of them are so nice. Personally, I love Annika. She's a great golfer. And I've met Natalie [Gulbis], she's a really nice lady and Lorena Ochoa. There's a lot of them that I like. I really don't have a favorite one, but I definitely like Annika, of course, because she's a great golfer. She's someone that you want to golf like. It's fun to watch.
Q: You get a personal call on your cell phone from Annika, you kind of have to go with her, don't you?
A: Definitely. She's really nice and a down-to-earth person.
Q: What will you say to her when you see her this week?
A: I'll definitely say, "Thank you for inviting me." That's a definite. I really don't know what else. I'll probably be a little nervous, but I'll just start talking. I really don't know what I'm going to say.
Q: Mac, you're off the Hot Seat.
A: Thank you very much.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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