Canada-born PGA Tour player Mackenzie Hughes and his wife Jenna balance life on the road with family time in their adopted hometown of Charlotte.
by Michael J. Solender • photographs by Richard Israel • styling by Whitley Adkins
hair and makeup by Josiah Reed • styling assistant Charlotte Stewart
Professional golfer Mackenzie Hughes is used to being in the minority. Hughes, 31, is one of a handful of PGA Tour players living in Charlotte and one of less than a dozen Canadians playing on professional golf’s grandest stage.
Hughes’ career is on a steady upward trajectory. He has the distinction of being the only golfer with wins on the Canadian Mackenzie Tour (2013 Cape Breton Celtic Classic), the Korn Ferry Tour (2016 Price Cutter Charity Championship) and the PGA Tour, where he won the RSM Classic in 2016. As of this writing, he has 35 Top 25 finishes in 148 PGA Tour events, including a sixth-place finish at last year’s British Open, one of professional golf’s four major tournaments. Hughes represented Canada at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo and at press time was ranked 27th in the FedEx Cup 2022 standings, the PGA’s official player ranking system.
Should Hughes maintain his ranking, he’ll be a lock for a position with the International team facing the Americans at the 2022 Presidents Cup, a biennial global competition between the United States and a team representing the rest of the world, excluding Europe. Hughes has extra motivation to make the team, as the host for the September event is Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club, where he would play in his own backyard.
The Hamilton, Ontario, native and Ballantyne resident often brings his family — wife Jenna, 32, and sons Kenton, 4, and Cohen, 1 — along with him on tour. SouthPark spoke with Hughes about the joys and pressures of life on tour with the family, connecting with other players, and what he loves about living south of the Canadian border.
Comments have been lightly edited.
How did a Canadian golfer end up in Charlotte?
We moved to Charlotte in the fall of 2012. My wife and I met at Kent State University. Jenna (originally from upstate New York) had just gotten a job here. I was pursuing my golf career and needed somewhere that was going to be warm enough in the winter for me to train and practice. This ended up being where we landed — and we have loved every minute of it. It’s hard to imagine us being anywhere else. Charlotte is an attractive city in the sense that it’s a growing city with a lot of families that seem quite like us in that they’re young and blossoming. That was something we noticed right away. As northerners, we appreciate the change in seasons and having that balance of days where we throw on jeans and a thick sweater or jacket with warmer weather in the summer. As we became more and more entrenched in Charlotte, we’ve found the people here have been amazing. It’s a great city, and a great place to raise a family. And we see ourselves here for a very long time.
There are very few Canadians currently on the PGA Tour and only a few pros that live in Charlotte. Who do you hang out with?
I grew up with a handful of [the Canadian players], and I’ve known many for a long time. There’s a lot of history there. I’ve known Corey Conners since I was 13 years old — we’ve played a lot of golf together and went to university together. We were in each other’s weddings. I’ve known Nick Taylor for a long time. I went to school with Taylor Pendrith. As I go down the list of Canadian players, I consider all of them friends of mine.
Here in Charlotte, Harold [Varner III] is a friend of mine, and we play golf when our schedules line up. Webb [ Simpson] is a great guy; I enjoy playing with him as well. Johnson Wagner is another guy who’s fun to be around and I consider a friend. Most every time we play, there’s some side [betting] action. When we’re playing here in Charlotte, we want to have something on the line that makes us have some pride and want to beat the other guy. I’ve been playing a lot of golf at Longview Country Club in Waxhaw. That’s where I play and practice right now, but I would like to get out more at Quail Hollow Club.
Do you allow yourself to think about what it might mean to play on the International team at the Presidents Cup here in September?
I’m very much embracing the fact that it’s a possibility for me, and it’s something I really want. With this type of goal, my focus is on the day-to-day things I need to do to be my best. If I take care of those things, I like my chances of achieving those bigger things. When I get on the golf course, I don’t think about the Presidents Cup. You’re so occupied with the task at hand that you don’t really allow yourself to do that. But how could it be any better? The Presidents Cup in your adopted hometown and [with] a bunch of friends out there. To be that close to home would be special. Coming off a great year last year and another good year this year, I feel like [my game] is building up quite nicely, but I’m still looking for more. I’m also not content to just be where I’m at. I’d like to keep striving for more.
What’s it like behind the ropes for your family, to have Jenna and the boys on the road with you?
In the fall of 2016, I got my [PGA] Tour card, and Jenna put in her notice at her job. We’d decided she was going to travel full time with me. And a week later, I won my first tournament on the PGA Tour. It very much validated that decision. Now, they’re with me on tour for most tournaments. As my oldest gets further along with school, we’ll slow down the travel. It’s nice since I get to see them every day, which I know eventually will not be the case. There are many families out there that also travel and have kids similar ages that we’ll hang out with and do fun things with. We also have a day care on the road for our kids. These teachers travel with the Tour and help kids learn and discover things, even from a young age. The environment for families is great. I don’t feel like we are limiting our children … They have friends at home, they have friends on tour. It is a neat dynamic. SP
While Mackenzie and Jenna Hughes enjoy life on tour, they always love returning home to the Queen City.
“Without the kids?Our favorite place currently is Steak 48. You walk out of there feeling like you’ve eaten way too much, but totally satisfied and you’ve justified it because it’s just so darn good,” Mackenzie says. The couple also loves getting sushi at Jadein Ballantyne or New Zealand Cafe. Other favorites: Supperland, Baku and Barrington’s.
“We like to take [the kids out to eat at] CO, Greco Fresh Grille and 131 Main,” Jennasays. “We like Freedom Park, William R. Davie Parkand welike the playground at Marvin Park. We like to go to Ballantyne across from the hotel to the small pond and feed the ducks.” Other favorites: Boating at Lake Wylie and Lake Norman and playing golf as a family.
“I like to wander at SouthPark Mall,” Jenna says. “For the kids, I like Janie and Jack. I like to shop at Vestique, Sloan, KK Bloomand Nordstrom. I enjoy shopping at Blakeney and Waverly. For the house, I like Ballard Designs.”
Featured photograph style: Jenna: Acler Wolcott dress, Showroom; shoes Jenna’s own
Mackenzie: Officine Generale seersucker check shirt and Double RL slim selvedge jean, both from Tabor