The Reid Roller Coaster!
Mel Reid on wishing she had moved to America sooner, how she did – or didn’t deal with the sudden death of her mother, and what drove her to reveal she was gay?
So much has happened in Mel Reid’s career, both professionally and privately, it is tough to believe she is still only 32 years of age and in her prime as a golfer.
When you consider what she has been through off the course, it’s impressive that she is still competing at the highest level.
Many have argued that Reid’s record of six Ladies European Tour titles since joining the professional ranks in 2007 could be regarded as an underachievement, given her natural talent.
But the sudden death of her mother in a tragic car accident in 2012 turned Reid’s life upside down and, although she won her first start back, her form over much of the subsequent three years led her to consider quitting the game.
And, of course, Reid was also dealing with her sexuality and seeing a number of friends treated appallingly – tough treatment which made her all the more determined to come out in an online interview in December 2018.
The three-time Solheim Cup star opened up about her personal experiences during a recent Sky Sports Golf Vodcast shortly after the United Kingdom went into lockdown, and the time away from her day job had given her the opportunity to reflect on her life and career.
Looking back, it could have been a lot different for the feisty Derby native, who had only recently – and belatedly – made the decision to play full-time on the lucrative LPGA Tour.
“I wish I’d had a bit more urgency to get to America, if I’m completely honest,” said Reid, who was named Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2008 and went on to land her first victory in Turkey two years later.
“I loved Europe, I enjoyed going to tournaments on a Tuesday and coming home on Sunday. I enjoyed having a couple of nights at home, I’ve always found that quite important for me, personally.
“I knew that if I left for America, I’d have had to have left for good, which kind of put me off it. But, looking back, I wish I’d made the move a lot earlier in my career.”
Her decision to stay in Europe looked a fruitful one as she won twice in 2011 and collected her fourth piece of silverware in June 2012, barely a month after losing her mother.
“I think it changed me. Something as horrific as that, and as sudden as that, has to change you in some way, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. And I think it made me better, to be honest.
“It made me appreciate various things in life a lot more, and it helped me to not be as selfish as maybe I once was. I’d have done a lot of things differently if I had the time again, but at the time you think you’re doing the right thing.
“But grief is a weird thing and it can jump on you at any moment. You never actually get over something like that, you just learn how to adapt to a new way of life. Everyone has their own opinions on grief, and there’s no right or wrong way of dealing with it.”
Despite her emotional win in Prague, Reid then “hit the self-destruct button” over the ensuing months, paying more attention to parties than practice and, by her own admission, she was “rebelling, not coping”.
“Some stories do get exaggerated, but I wish I’d have been more confident in myself to have taken the year off and just dealt with it privately, and not so publicly.
“It’s difficult when you get a lot of advice, and you’ve got sponsors you feel responsible for, and you feel like you owe it to them to keep playing. And I think winning my first event back was the worst thing that could have happened because it made me feel like I was okay, when it hadn’t even impacted me yet.
“Looking back, I would have done things differently and taken a step back to have a bit of space from everything, gathered my thoughts.
“I was trying to look after my family. I was trying to be there for my dad, and my sister, even though she had a husband. And there was my brother as well … I was just trying to make sure everyone was okay and put my stuff to one side.
“I should have taken a bit of time to figure out my stuff as well.”
Reid has also been an advocate of the vast increase in coverage and awareness of mental wellbeing, a subject that has prompted a host of household names from across the sporting spectrum to speak out.
“I think, as athletes, one of the biggest things we struggle with as that we’re seen as superhuman,” added Reid. “When we go out and perform on a weekly, or daily basis, even if you’re only practising, there’s always somebody watching you.
“So you’re constantly putting up a guard and you’re not quite sure about who’s there or who’s listening, you don’t know what people are thinking. I think it’s extremely difficult for athletes to admit they might be struggling.
“But over the past two or three years I think it’s become a lot more vocal. Athletes from all sports are now coming forward and admitting their struggles and making it clear we’re not superhuman after all, we have issues as well.
“Social media doesn’t help sometimes, there are so many people who have an opinion behind their phone. They can message you with some horrific things and you read them even if you don’t want to.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human and we all have our own demons in some form. Everyone has their own problems that they’re trying to deal with.”
But did those problems she was dealing with almost lead her to entertain thoughts of a new career away from golf?
“Of course there was. There have been many times in my career where I’ve thought ‘Is this really what I want to do?
“When you’re not playing well, it’s such a grind. You’re constantly trying to get the balance right , and it’s more difficult in the women’s game because you haven’t got the financial freedom that the men’s game provides.
“I’m not saying I play for money, I don’t think that at all, but it’s more difficult when you’re paying your own way and your expenses mean you’ve actually made nothing.
“Somehow, some way, I’ve always gone back to golf. It will always be part of my life and it’s brought me everything that’s good in my life as well. I’m extremely thankful for what golf has given me.”
Her slump ended with a long-overdue victory in Turkey which went a long way to her being restored to the European Solheim Cup team a few months later, but her only win since was over three years ago, although Reid is more comfortable off the course since announcing she was gay.
What was less comfortable, however, was the reason which drove her to come out of the closet.
“I’ve seen the bad side of it which people don’t see unless they’re in it, added Reid. “I’ve seen my friends kicked out because of who they love.
“I’ve seen relationships fall apart because someone’s not comfortable with who they are, I’ve seen sponsors not sponsor people because of who they love and things like that, especially in the women’s game.
“I can’t speak for the men’s game but I’m sure it’s just as, if not more, difficult for them because of this whole persona of who you should be as an athlete.
“We [golfers] are on a platform to make a little bit of a voice and a little bit of a difference. People give back in charities and all kinds of other amazing ways and this was just my way of giving back, to say to people it’s okay to be who you are.
“If I would have got one message from someone saying ‘hey, you’ve made a huge difference to me, my son or my daughter came out as gay and you’ve now made me realise that I didn’t act in the appropriate way’, that’s kind of what I wanted.
“I got a huge amount of messages from parents, from siblings, from people in general coming out that it made an impact on, and that to me is why I did it. It was just my way of giving back to my community and say it is okay to be who you are.”
To listen to the full interview with Mel Reid, go to the Sky Sports Golf Podcast page https://www.skysports.com/podcasts/36578/11933264/sky-sports-golf-podcastJuly 15, 2020 4:45 pm