Mel Reid: 2015 Solheim Cup was her finest hour!
A bit like the Ryder Cup at Brookline the main talking point in the years to come will be of an unseemly incident on the 17th green. An incident, like 1999, that easily could have been avoided and one that saw the United States, as they did 16 years ago, come from 10-6 behind to win, by the slenderest of margins, the Solheim Cup at St Leon Rot, in Germany.
Which is all a great shame; not least because the Americans were sensational when playing on their own, as were the Europeans when playing as a pair. Things that will easily be forgotten in time.
We had a 19-year-old in Charley Hull win her first four matches but it was the nature of that final victory which worked in the Americans’ favour.
Alison Lee, like Hull just 19, picked up her ball thinking her putt (all of 18 inches) had been conceded, only to be informed by Hull’s fourballs partner, Suzann Pettersen, that it hadn’t. Europe would head to the final tee ahead for the first time in the match.
The final hole, instead of providing a thrilling and unexpected extra point for the hosts, turned into a confused mess with talk of a concession being raised by the European captain Carin Koch, only to be batted away by Pettersen.
The teams shook hands (barely), Juli Inkster described the situation as ‘bullshit’ and the Americans had the moral high ground. Buoyed by an overwhelming sense of injustice they then blew the home side away in the afternoon.
One of the three singles successes for Koch’s side was Mel Reid, a win over Brittany Lang which put the finishing touches on a brilliant individual week for the Derbyshire 28-year-old. Reid played four times, won three and halved the other. She was the only European to emerge from the week unbeaten.
It also brought some small sense of closure to a period in Reid’s life which makes all talk of gimmes or otherwise seem very trivial.
Reid lost her mum Joy when she and her husband Brian were involved in a head-on collision near Munich in May 2012. They were there to watch Mel play in the German Open. Brian survived but Joy died the morning after the accident from internal injuries.
A few months later I was lucky enough to play in the Ladies Scottish Open pro-am. When my name was announced on the 1st tee my legs had turned to jelly and I had got myself into a bit of a tizzy over what was going to happen next.
But then came a whooping noise and, given it only came from one person, something that was bordering on wild applause. Joy Reid had arrived early to watch her daughter, who was playing in the group behind, and was doing her very best to put me at my ease.
It worked, we both giggled and I tugged one safely into some light rough. Cue more unbridled applause.
Reid had been back to Germany a couple of times after the accident and, understandably, didn’t want to be there. There was a time when Reid had considered not playing golf for a living, at one point she had slipped to 333rd in the world.
But, after being put in touch with coach Kevin Craggs by her best mate Breanne Loucks, they slowly put back together the pieces. It was a process which involved boot camps and heart to hearts and ultimately brought the opportunity to produce some positive memories in Germany.
This is how Reid recalls the week in her own words:
I had my own personal goals which I achieved though obviously it was disappointing not to win the cup and it kind of makes it even more disappointing if you have played well and from the situation that we were in.
The Americans played unbelievably, it’s not like we even played badly. They were brilliant and that is just sport. There were something like 132 birdies on the Sunday which is around 5.5 per player.
I felt like I had prepared well. I wasn’t actually that nervous on the first day, I was really calm. I said to my coach that didn’t feel like I did in Ireland where I was really shaky. The second time is a lot easier, you know what the atmosphere is like and what to expect on the 1st tee.
Charley [Hull] and I wanted to play together and we had been talking about it for six months. We are both English so there is the patriotism there and she is a fantastic player. We play a similar game, we are both aggressive and go at pins. We planted it into Carin’s head from quite a long time before. She is in a world of her own and is a cracking girl. She is still 19, which we all forget. She is like a harmless little puppy.
I then teamed up with Carlota [Ciganda], we are both quite powerful and I think they wanted to put together those type of players. So there was Suzann and Charley and me and Carlota. It was a long course and you needed to get out the gates early.
I love Carlota, again we have a similar mentality but in a different way, more of a football way. We like to big each other up and rub each other’s egos.
Our Friday afternoon fourballs against Christie [Kerr] and Lexi [Thompson] was a roller-coaster. And of course it featured one of the shots of the week as Carlota holed her 9-iron approach to the 17th. I went nuts. On 16 I had holed a putt to get back to one down so we were buzzing off that and then she holed her approach. I was like ‘oh my god’ and just grabbed her and said ‘you are such a legend’. I was so excited; in reply, Lexi’s approach finished about a foot away.
Lexi was about 11 under – or something ridiculous – on her own ball. I really enjoy the way she plays, so much flair and natural ability. You wouldn’t teach the swing she has but she’s a powerful girl, compresses it and is a very strong player.
Failing light meant we had to come back the following morning. I knew Lexi would birdie the 18th – she had birdied pretty much every other hole so she might as well birdie the last too. It was cold and wet and I had to cut a 3- iron to a back pin and then made the putt. That is definitely one of the most satisfying moments of my career. I needed to do it and I did.
So after halving the fourballs I think they felt confident of putting us together in the foursomes.
It’s funny I felt like I could have played a little bit better during the week. I felt like I put quite a bit of pressure on myself, I had just got in the team on merit and I wanted to prove myself.
I was one of the longest prices to be one of top scorers so there is a lot of satisfaction to do that. I knew I was playing well but there are a lot of distractions and things that can get in the way. But I could have still played a little bit better.
I was lucky in who I played. My first game was against Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome and they are lovely. There are certain players who are maybe not quite as nice and would never say good shot. Just because it is competitive doesn’t mean you have to be rude.
I’m not really intimidated by any of their players, I have played with them so many times, they are just players at the end of the day. You just pull your shoulders back and give it everything you’ve got.
OK, here we go. The gimme/concession was a difficult situation. Alison Lee made a mistake, she shouldn’t have picked the ball up in my opinion. There were a couple of incidents in other matches where she had picked up the ball too early so she was aware of that, plus she had missed a couple of rules meetings as she had food poisoning earlier in the week. There they clearly said that you had to be clear about concessions.
I don’t think Suzann handled it as well as she could have done. Charley is a kid and is listening to Suzann, which is completely understandable, and Suzann is a fierce competitor and is very blinkered about the team.
I think Carin should have stepped in as captain and offered the half. She had the authority to do it, everyone was a bit worried about what to do.
Looking back at it now, and with hindsight, I’m sure Suzann would have handled it differently and Carin probably regrets not taking the pressure off Suzann. It is easy to say all that now though.
I feel like Suzann has had the brunt of it which is a bit unfair, I don’t think she deserves all the criticism that she’s had if I’m honest. I feel a bit sorry for her.
She’s not the easiest person, if it was me I would have given the half. Suzann is hard to talk to sometimes and is stubborn but I feel like Carin should have done it.
We all made a pact before the singles not to talk about it, get our point and talk about it later. I know a couple of the girls weren’t happy about what had happened. The Americans had more fire in their belly and we didn’t need to give them that ammo. They were world class anyway without any extra motivation.
I decided in my head at the start of the year that if I made the team I would take all my family and close friends. When I got in we sorted rooms and flights, I wanted everyone there.
I was asked when I wanted to miss a session so I asked for the Saturday afternoon, which was also my birthday, and I could spend some of it with them.
When the singles had finished and before the closing ceremony I went to one of the pavilions to see them all. That was probably the most special moment of the week, having a couple of drinks with them and speaking about what we had achieved as a group. They are all part of my team and I made it very clear that I couldn’t have done it without them.
I’m still waiting for a birthday present from my dad. He said he had got me my motorbike licence but he said that two years ago so I think he’s milking it.