McKenzie Lyng and Amanda Robertson first met on the Cactus Tour, a mini-tour in Arizona that awards winner checks for up to $ 4,000. As their friendship blossomed, they began touring together on the Canadian Tour and State Opens, spending nine consecutive weeks together searching for an LPGA dream.
However, something else happened along the way: the couple started a business together.
Lyng and Robertson no longer play golf professionally, but their company, Backswing Golf Events, funds the careers of dozens of players who still do.
The idea for the company came from a pro-am in Las Vegas that was attended by 25 young professionals – most of them, like McKenzie, former cast members on the Big Break series on Golf Channel.
Getting paid to have dinner and play golf with customers? The two friends had the idea to broadcast this concept nationally and to put together their first event in 2015.
They started by searching online for existing events and calling coldly to ask if they’d like to hire a group of touring pros to raise more money for charity – beat the pros closest to the pins standing, long-drive professionals, roaming professionals who play 1-3 holes with each group and then move on.
“It was just Amanda and me and two other people,” said Lyng, “and then it kind of exploded.”
In 2016, the Scottsdale-based company hosted 62 events. The number slowly rose to 85 the following year, but by 2019 they had hosted 450 events in one year. Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, it was predicted that they would hit the 700 mark.
Even so, they managed to hold 300 events last year. This year it should be 800.
“It was kind of a blessing for our company,” said Lyng of the 2020 break. “We were really deep in our booth and exploded very quickly.”
As a mother of two young children, Lyng felt that neither of the two roles gave her enough – CEO or mother. The pandemic taught them to ask for help.
“It almost made us pause for a second,” said Robertson, the company’s COO / CFO. “We had three to four months in which to actually work on our business development and prepare for a really big autumn and a big year 2021.
There are three salespeople and 75 women on their list of players. You can work as much or as little as you want. Professionals make between $ 400 to $ 700 on a local event and up to $ 1,300 on company outings on the street on top of their expenses.
Backswing hosts five Southwest Airlines events per year, which are two-day events with 288 players. They have worked with the American Cancer Society, the National Kidney Foundation, hospitals, and construction companies.
Madison Frerking started working with backswing straight out of college, working on 20 events in two months earlier this year.
“You don’t have to wonder if you will be playing the WAPT,” Lyng said of the Women’s All Pro Tour. “To me it was like, ‘Well, I don’t have another $ 600 lying around so I have to find a sponsor or work at the restaurant.'”
The job keeps players on the golf course with a club in hand and interacts with customers as they would every Wednesday at the LPGA every week.
Backswing jobs have funded Q-School entrance fees and have taken some of the pressure off many unemployed professionals with no financial support from college. The flexibility also makes it easy to bypass tournament schedules.
Both Lyng and Robertson learned the game in high school and switched from softball to golf at the age of 16. Lyng went on to study at Kent State and eventually received a scholarship. Robertson didn’t play golf in college and graduated from Pepperdine with a degree in psychology in 2011. Instead, she got really addicted to the game when she took part in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour, where she was the only woman on the national winning team in 2008.
They never imagined that one day they would run a golf company with an average of over 50 events per month. And of course not only the professionals benefit financially. So are the charities. Backswing’s events have raised nearly $ 2 million for charities since their inception.
“I think we didn’t realize how much influence we had in these tournaments,” said Lyng. “I’ve had people crying because we raised so much money.”