Inside the Walter Pyramid, LBSU’s new women’s golf assistant coach, McKenzie Raim, speaks with poise about her first coaching gig. Surfaces holding books and stacks of paper line the walls, but the layout is purposeful and uncluttered. Raim grew up two hours east of Long Beach in sunny Palm Desert, and though her office isn’t cold, she wears a thick black Nike vest.
“The hotter the better,” Raim says.
Raim attended UNLV, partly because of her preference for playing in the heat. She had an accomplished playing career there, including a second place finish at the 2018 Mountain West Conference championship and multiple individual wins. Like a true coach, however, she stresses that the 13 team wins she was a part of are much more important to her than the individual accomplishments.
In hiring Raim, Long Beach head coach Joey Cerulle cited her experience at UNLV as part of her qualifications for the job at LBSU.
“McKenzie, at UNLV, was lead and mentored under a coach that had similar philosophies [to ours], so it makes sense for her to come and learn in a program that was in the same genre,” Cerulle said. “She’s an excellent fit.”
Raim decided to pursue golf as a career after her junior year in high school. Her five individual wins, one in each of the tournaments her team played in that year, factored into that realization.
“I had a pretty stellar year which made me realize I can take my game to the next level,” Raim said.
In a society that often criticizes female athletes for acknowledging their own success, Raim’s matter-of-fact recognition of her talent is both notable and refreshing.
She recognizes not only her own contributions to her career path, but others as well. She mentions her coach at Palm Desert high school during her junior year, Jack Stewart, specifically.
“I owe [Stewart] all the credit in the world in high school, he pushed me every single day, we never settled,” Raim said. “I was lucky enough to play on a high school team that was pretty much like a college team, all the five girls I played with went on to play college golf.”
From Stewart’s perspective, Raim did not drastically improve her game during her junior year, she just started seeing the results of the work ethic and talent she had always had.
“Right from the beginning she was one of my better players,” Stewart said.
Stewart specifically mentioned her driving strength, and how desert courses, which don’t have much rough or trees, favored that skill by giving her “the freedom to hit it long.”
An Academic All-American at UNLV, Raim has an incredible work ethic and said she never had to consciously struggle with balancing work and school.
“They were always pretty much equal,” she said.
Raim and her focus, required both in golf and academics, certainly bear responsibility for her work ethic, but that characteristic may be supplemented by the fact that she was an only child. She said that a previous report from the Las Vegas Review Journal claiming she stopped playing team sports as a kid “because nobody tried as hard as she did,” was a misinterpretation.
She believes 7 and 8 year old athletes are just trying to have fun, rightly so, although her situation was a bit different. She used “we” instead of “I” in her explanation, providing insight into a form of internal dialogue common among highly focused and successful individuals.
“I’m an only child so the spotlight’s always been on me. It’s always been about how can we excel, how can we do this [or that], how can I make my parents proud,” Raim said. “That’s where I think being an only child and playing golf go together, because everything falls on your shoulders.”
Raim also hinted at the role of her parents in her work ethic and success, and credited them with being her biggest support system.
“They sacrificed a lot, my dad took off every weekend to take me to [high school] tournaments and . . . came out to almost every tournament in college to watch me play,” Raim said.
Raim’s confidence in herself combined with her focus on the success and contributions of others bodes well for the future of LBSU golf. She says the team has a laid-back personality, in a positive way, that prevents them from placing blame on others.
The women’s golf team will play its first tournament of the season September 17-19 at ptarmigan country club in Fort Collins CO.