Meghan MacLaren Plays a Good Game

By Keith Jackson, Sky Sports Golf

Meghan MacLaren not only talks a good game, she plays a good game and has the ability to back up her potent opinions with some high-quality golf that has earned her silverware on three different continents.

The 27-year-old from Wellingborough has become as renowned for her straight-talking blogs as her straight-hitting prowess on the course, an asset which recently landed a maiden professional victory in the United States.

Not one to mince her words, MacLaren has spoken with clarity and honesty about a wide range of heavily-discussed topics, weighing in on golfing and social issues and leaving her readers in no doubt that she has the best interests of her sport in mind.

Her views on diversity, inclusivity and mental health have been met with widespread acclaim, and MacLaren has demonstrated an impressive ability to explain how every negative can have a positive outcome with a bit of forethought and appropriate action.

She was particularly outspoken and, at times, emotional, when expressing her opinions on racial and gender inequalities which have been addressed, albeit belatedly, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis last year.

Speaking on the Sky Sports Golf podcast, MacLaren said: “I think golf, like pretty much every industry, has to take a hard look at itself and see what it can do better. It’s not an easy situation for anybody.

“For me, being a woman in golf speaking about the opportunities and the access issues we’ve had, I know that as well-meaning as males can be in this situation, they can’t necessarily understand it from the same perspective.

“I think as white people, we need to address the Black Lives Matter movement and racial inequality in a similar way. We can emphasise and we can listen, but we can’t actually understand what it’s like. I think we need to take the time to do that, before we can instigate any meaningful change.”

Before the main professional golf tours resumed during a three-month hiatus enforced by the coronavirus pandemic last year, the Rose Ladies Series was established, giving the LET players the chance to play competitive golf in a series of one-day tournaments at some superb venues, including the first ladies professional event to be staged at Royal St. George’s, with the Grand Final inked in for Wentworth.

And MacLaren won the second of the Rose Ladies Series events at Moor Park, posting a three-under 69 in hot and humid conditions in Hertfordshire to top the 51-player leaderboard and win the £5,000 first prize.

“I think it’s just the acknowledgement, just as much as the money and the opportunity. It’s the acknowledgement that ‘yeah, you’re here as well and doing the same thing we do, but you don’t necessarily have that same platform’”, she said.

“For us to get that gesture from Justin means a great deal from all of us.”

It was the fifth professional victory for MacLaren, twice a winner on the LET Access Series before earning the right to play on the Ladies European Tour in 2018, when she won the Women’s NSW Open – a title she successfully defended a year later.

MacLaren enjoyed a consistent 2019 campaign and finished fifth in the Order of Merit thanks to five top-10 finishes but, like many of her fellow pros in Europe, she would have had legitimate concerns over where her next pay cheque would come from when global sport shut down in March last year.

Her Rose Ladies Series win was huge for her confidence, and her state of mind, and thanks to the support of her family and some significant investment from her sponsors, MacLaren headed across the Atlantic to compete on the Symetra Tour with the aim of earning a lucrative LPGA Tour card.

And she went a long way towards securing that dream ticket with a magnificent two-shot victory at the Prasco Charity Championship.

“I am just really really happy to be honest,” she said in her champion’s interview. “It sounds quite simple but we are all out here to win and get our cards. I have had some kind of low moments over the last couple of years, so to get over the line is incredible.”

And who was to thank?

“My family first and foremost. My parents and my sister keep me smiling all the time. There are a few more people close to me and they know who they are. This year especially my sponsors, Computercenter, Rohnisch clothing, Ambera, No Laying Up, the list goes on.

“We are the ones with the trophy at the end of the day but there are so many people who go into that.”  

One of the keys to her win was taking the chance to return to Europe for a few weeks, working on her game, competing, and getting away from the “grind” of tournament golf in the United States.

“I got to have a few days at home after playing a couple events over in Europe. That was massive,” she added. “I got to see my coaches which definitely helped but being able to reset and get away from it all, because it is a grind out here and you can beat yourself up quite quickly, just to see the people that I love and refresh mentally and physically definitely put me in a good space coming out here.”

But afterwards, MacLaren offered a fresh and insightful perspective on her maiden win in the US, describing how she had come to terms with being unable to convert a three-shot lead into victory just a few weeks beforehand, resisting the temptation to post a negative blog about her negative experience.

“A few weeks ago, after a Symetra event when I held a three-shot lead overnight and wound up finishing third after a final round 73, I started writing a blog. I titled it “winning… even though I didn’t.” Much like the tournament I was trying to write about, I didn’t finish it,” she wrote.

“I wanted to make a connection between what I’d felt that week – playing well enough to lead a tournament, having finally found a way (with incredibly painful reluctance) to let go of my expectations – and Phil Mickelson winning the PGA Championship – but it felt too hollow. Everything I’d felt for two rounds disappeared the moment I stepped onto the first green of the last round. 

“I know a lot of my writing skews negative. It’s not because I don’t love golf – that never wavers, even when I overwhelmingly detest it – but more because there are so many intricacies to playing well and getting results. Players who miss cuts or shoot over par on the weekends or don’t win – the latter of which is 99% of the field – don’t tend to get interviewed too often, so we don’t get to hear the best players in the world talk about how damn difficult it is, even for them, so much of the time. The questions we hear more often are directed to the leaders, or the winners, along the lines of “how great does it feel to shoot 64/win this tournament/go home with $5 million?” 

“The thing is, in those moments, it really does just feel great.

“In those moments, everything else makes sense.

“In those moments, the darkness is irrelevant.”

Wise words, indeed, for a motivated, thoughtful young lady who could yet become one of the top driving forces in making wholesale improvements in all areas for the women’s game. Meghan is a lady of many talents, and anyone looking for inspiration could do a lot worse than read, listen and learn from her.

August 25, 2021 4:35 pm

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