The most emotional victory of the year
Whatever happens in the rest of this golfing season there is unlikely to be a more gutsy, or more emotional, win than Mel Reid’s at the Prague Masters.
A month before, Mel was preparing for the German Masters when her parents Brian and Joy were involved in a head-on collision on the way back to their hotel. Brian survived with broken ribs; tragically, Joy didn’t.
The overwhelming feeling of loss on the Ladies’ European Tour was understandable. Joy was a regular supporter, not only of her daughter but of the tour, and was hugely popular.
Having spent a good chunk of the Solheim Cup wandering around Killeen Castle with her it was very easy to see why – she was interesting and interested and fun to be around. The 6am bus trip to the course would quickly pass with a story or two.
The last time I saw her was when I was playing in the Ladies’ Scottish Open, a pro-am event, at Archerfield Links.
Mel was in the group behind me so her mum was already on the 1st when I teed off. My name was announced to a backdrop of silence until Joy put her hands together and then started cheering. I tipped my cap in her direction, we both began to giggle and I was able to send the ball in a forward direction to further lone applause.
Being a successful sportsperson doesn’t give you an edge when it comes to losing someone, let alone your mum. Worse still you have to live out part of your grieving in front of thousands of people, a good number of whom will be watching very closely for any chink of emotion.
Golf is a particularly tough sport for this. Whereas in a more physical environment you can take it out on yourself or others, in golf you are left alone with your thoughts for the majority of the time before having to get those thoughts exactly right for 18 holes.
And then you have to repeat that for three days, and then answer the same questions over the same period.
Needless to say it affects everyone in different ways. Nick Dougherty looked set to make the Ryder Cup team in 2008 when his mother, Ennis, died. He never made that team and, coupled with injuries, his form fell away at an alarming rate. This season he is playing on the Challenge Tour and, thankfully, looks to be on an upward curve.
Being a successful sportsperson doesn’t give you an edge when it comes to losing someone, let alone your mum. Martin Kaymer was another who could have made Nick Faldo’s team but two weeks after a victory on home soil his mother, Rina, passed away. Likewise, his results understandably slowed up. When Tiger Woods’ dad, Earl, died in 2006 he then missed his first cut in a Major at the 2006 US Open. A month later at Hoylake he then added a third Open title.
Speaking from personal experience the grieving process comes and it goes. Having lost my dad a few years ago I am happy to talk about him at length one day but then can’t get a word out the next. I still spot a figure on a parallel fairway or waiting behind the 18th green and think it’s him only to be jerked into reality a moment later.
Mel will surely have had that throughout the week in Prague as well as seeing well-meaning players and supporters all trying to encourage.
Some might only have heard the name for her early association with Clive Woodward and having a huge team of helpers there to elevate her to success.
A misconception might be that she is pampered and pushed by those around her.
The truth is very, very different. She is particularly down to earth and has the very likeable quality of being seemingly shy with new faces then very amusing with her mates.
At last year’s Solheim Cup there wasn’t one player who got behind her team-mates more when not in action. Ask any of the players who is the best fun in the team room and Mel’s name quickly pops up.
After her win, she said: “To be honest I wasn’t that nervous. I think with something like what’s happened to my family and me nothing really seems that difficult anymore.
“I spoke to my coach and he said to me, ‘I don’t know when it’s going to be, but this will make you a stronger person,’ and my best friends have said that as well and I honestly think it will.
“It will make me fight and nothing will seem as bad as what I’ve been through.”
Life will be very different for the 24-year-old from Derbyshire. I for one wish her all the luck in the world.