Meg Mallon won the 2014 Walgreens Charity Championship on The Legends Tour.
LPGA Tour veteran Meg Mallon became one of the newest inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame this fall. In a 23-year LPGA Tour career, Mallon won 18 tournaments, including four major championships, capped by wins at the 1991 and 2004 U.S. Women’s Open.
A native of Natick, Mass., who grew up in the Detroit metro area, Mallon amassed 126 career top-10 finishes and was an eight-time member of U.S. Solheim Cup teams before serving as the 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup captain.
Mallon launched her LPGA career in 1987 and retired from the tour in 2010. She went on to play and win on The Legends Tour, bringing along her same avid fan appeal at each event.
Recently, Mallon discussed her career highs and lows with veteran golf writer Lisa D. Mickey for www.thelegendstour.com. Here’s what she had to say:
Legends Tour: What does a Hall of Fame induction mean to you?
Mallon: I played in an era with a lot of hall of famers. While I was mixing in my wins and accomplishments, there was so much greatness around me. I really think I played in the greatest era of women’s golf so far. It’s quite an honor to be recognized with that group.
Legends Tour: But you are right there with the greatest names in the game.
Mallon: Obviously, the Hall of Fame represents a lot of different eras and you just hope that you stood out a little bit in your era. My era included players like Laura Davies, Liselotte Neumann, Sherri Steinhauer and Kelly Robbins, who fit in behind Amy Alcott, Pat Bradley, JoAnne Carner, Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Patty Sheehan, followed by the next group that included Karrie Webb, Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam and Se Ri Pak. My career was a great time to be a part of women’s golf.
Legends Tour: In your induction speech, you said as a young girl, you always admired the athletic successes of Babe Zaharias. As you progressed in golf, did you dream of entering golf’s hall of fame?
Mallon: No, I was a late bloomer in golf and I didn’t learn about the founders and the great LPGA players until I was playing on tour. I became good friends with Louise Suggs and she told me a lot of stories about Babe. As a girl who was an athlete, Babe was truly somebody to look up to. I read every book about her because she was the greatest female athlete of all time.
Legends Tour: When you look back on your career, what would you say was the key to so much success? How did you do it?
Mallon: With a lot of help. I think everybody can look back at forks in the road and one of mine was going to Our Lady of Mercy High School in Michigan. The public school system didn’t really embrace female athletes at the time, and Mercy High was a school that actually invited me to be there as an athlete. It was a comfortable environment and was exactly where I felt like I needed to be to exercise my competitive spirit. To be able to do it freely and to feel comfortable with it was awesome. That was also a steppingstone for me to play a sport in college and to be able to continue competing at another level.
Legends Tour: You had a full scholarship to play at Michigan State, but you opted to be a walk-on player at Ohio State. Why?
Mallon: My parents were ready to retire and all of a sudden, they were getting ready to pay out-of-state college tuition. But they knew Ohio State was a great facility for golf and a great university and they told me it was my decision. I’m really glad I started getting scholarships during my sophomore and junior years, eventually earning a full scholarship. Ohio State had a great golf history, plus, coming from Michigan, I was actually going south, so that gave me an extra three weeks of golf in both the spring and fall, even though it was still a northern school. I actually met Rosie Jones there during my recruiting trip. She was in the spring semester of her senior year, and when I met her, she was running around the track.
Legends Tour: Your short game was your calling card for many years. How did you make it so dependable?
Mallon: I had to learn that. I went to my teacher Mike McGetrick with no short game. In college, I might hit 16 greens in regulation and three-putt four holes per round. I had no discipline, but when I met Mike, all of a sudden the creative juices came and it was so much fun to learn the short game. I embraced it so much, I wasn’t afraid to try shots on the golf course in competition.
Legends Tour: How did you always manage to smile even when the competition was intense?
Mallon: There’s so much going on in life, but once I got inside the ropes, I was always happy and felt like that was exactly where I wanted to be. I love to compete and learn new things. I’m a pretty social person, so for me, it was a joyful place to be competing in a tournament. When it became a place without joy, that’s when I stopped playing -- but pretty much for my whole career, I embraced the tour and the entire experience.
Legends Tour: You have always been accessible to the media. Why?
Mallon: I understood the media had a job to do and that they didn’t have to be there. I remember Betsy King saying to me early in my career, “Can you imagine having to write something interesting every night for the paper the next morning?” We had a lot of great people covering us who actually wanted to be there, but there were also challenges. I remember one reporter telling me his editor got to go to Augusta National to cover The Masters and he “got stuck covering the LPGA.” I sat down with that guy and talked to him for 45 minutes and he wrote good articles all week. I felt a sense of responsibility to help the tour and the media was a big part of reaching the public.
Legends Tour: Did any of the older players help you as a young pro?
Mallon: JoAnne Carner gave me a bunker lesson once for an hour. I was recently at [LPGA player] Alison Walshe’s wedding and one of the players there said she was struggling with her bunker play, so I gave her a tip. I got a text from her later saying she was hitting it awesome. You just keep passing along the knowledge and that’s the great part of the game. We’re all competing against each other, but we also want to compete against each other at our best.
Legends Tour: You must have had some memorable rounds playing friendly golf at home in South Florida with Louise Suggs, JoAnne Carner, Beth Daniel and Karrie Webb.
Mallon: (Laughter) Well, I learned to never give Louise Suggs a shot per hole except for the par-3s, because she killed me every time! And JoAnne is one of the greatest competitors of all time and one of my favorite players. Having the opportunity to be able to play with them, not only on tour, but also at home -- in what was supposed to have been a casual atmosphere – was just a treat. It’s etched in my memory as something I was really lucky to do. JoAnne was still winning when I joined the tour and Louise was only playing in the Dinah Shore Invitational (now ANA Inspiration). I learned a lot from both.
Legends Tour: Is it true you were once asked to leave a practice area at a TPC course?
Mallon: Yes, it happened at TPC Scottsdale in either 1999 or 2000. Beth [Daniel] and I had been asked by my teacher, Mike McGetrick, to conduct a PGA clinic on the TPC Scottsdale course. In the middle of the clinic, Beth got a call from the commissioner, telling her she had been voted into the LPGA’s Hall of Fame. It was really cool and everybody got to congratulate her. So when we finished the clinic, the director of instruction suggested that we go to the back of the range to hit balls. We were both still on the LPGA Tour, but we said, “No, we’re not allowed there,” but he told us we could go practice and gave us a bunch of balls. We saw a guy hitting balls on the range and there was another guy in a cart behind him watching him hit. We literally went 40 yards away from him. The guy in the cart, who was the director of golf, watched us put down our clubs and start practicing and then drove over and said, “Ladies, I’d appreciate it if you would pick up your golf clubs. This is the office of this gentleman and he would like some privacy.” So we picked up our clubs to leave and saw the player was R.W. Eaks [a winless two-year member on the PGA Tour]. So within 15 minutes, Beth went from finding out she was in the hall of fame to finding out just where she stood in golf. It was humiliating.
Legends Tour: Did that incident leave you with a feeling that women golfers still have a way to go to be accepted equally in the game?
Mallon: Quite frankly, we’re still continually told that.
Legends Tour: What do you consider the highlight of your career?
Mallon: It’s hard to just pick one, but playing in the Solheim Cup eight times and being named captain truly was a highlight. And then to get into the Hall of Fame, I just couldn’t believe it. Also, the fact that my family was there for a lot of my wins -- especially my majors -- and to be able to celebrate with them was really cool.
Legends Tour: You shot a 6-under 65 in the final round to win the 2004 U.S. Women’s Open in your home state. That must be a highlight.
Mallon: Yeah, I was nervous the morning of that final round because I knew I had a chance to win the Open. I was playing in the last group with Jennifer Rosales, who had a three-shot lead, but she had never been in that position before. I was more focused on Annika and Kelly [Robbins] playing right in front of me because I knew they would come out strong. I kept seeing them make birdies, so I knew I had to do the same.
Legends Tour: Do you have a fondest career memory?
Mallon: Making the winning putt in 2005 to win the Solheim Cup and embracing my teammates was pretty neat, except I wound up in the hospital that night. I had an SVT [supraventricular tachycardia attack] on the bus and everybody thought I’d had a heart attack and was dying, so it kind of killed the mood. As it turned out, it was a blessing because the best heart hospital in the country was only a few miles away from Crooked Stick Golf Club, where we had just played the Solheim Cup. My heart rate went up to 300 [beats a minute] and they were getting ready to use the paddles on me. I had actually been misdiagnosed for 20 years because doctors didn’t know much about the electrical part of the heart. By the time this attack happened, the doctors at that hospital knew it was an electrical breakdown in my heart when the heart rate goes way up really fast. Those doctors fixed my heart and I’ve been great ever since.
Legends Tour: What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
Mallon: I didn’t travel well and I had a really hard time playing tournaments overseas. I didn’t sleep well and I didn’t adjust to different time zones. Thank God I don’t play now. We traveled a bit overseas during my career, but not as much as the LPGA does now. Sometimes I also struggled getting in enough practice time because of all the extra stuff I tried to do with media. I had to learn to say no sometimes, which was hard.
Legends Tour: Do you enjoy playing with your longtime peers on The Legends Tour and do you plan to continue competing?
Mallon: I definitely enjoy seeing everybody on The Legends Tour, but as far as playing, I don’t practice anymore, and if I don’t practice, I’m not going to compete. I’m not a ceremonial golfer. I have to work really hard at playing good golf. That’s why I retired! Now, I’m comfortable and relaxed that I can go on golf vacations. Since I retired, I’ve played at Bandon Dunes in Oregon, some of the northern California courses and I want to take my brothers to Ireland and play there. I want to see all those courses around the world that everybody’s always talked about, but I never got to play.
Legends Tour: How would you like for your career to be remembered?
Mallon: My career was one where maybe some young girl could say, “I can do that.” I wasn’t a world-beater. I didn’t win big tournaments at age 8 like Lorena Ochoa did, but I learned at every level, and there was longevity and perseverance in my career. Once I won, I was ready to win, and then I was ready to win more. I think sometimes people get so caught up in not having success right away that they fail to enjoy the journey and the path it takes. You have to build the foundation to stay there. I was willing to learn and willing to change to get better, and I just fell in love with the game more and more as I went along. That’s the real success I’d like any young girl to see in my career.
Meg Mallon played for victorious Team USA in the 2014 ISPS Handa Cup.