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LPGA Vet Mel Reid on Perseverance, Perspective & Sweet, Sweet Victory

Players posing with trophy/ JWS

Mel Reid is a professional golfer from England who recently won her first LPGA tour at the 2020 ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey in October. Reid spoke to Just Women’s Sports about what winning this tour meant to her and the lessons she’s learned about perseverance from a career defined by hardship and resilience. 

You just won your first LPGA tour event in October. Congratulations!

Thank you!

Just a month earlier, you had the lead in the final round at an LPGA event in Portland, but it slipped away. How were you able to get over that disappointment and ensure that it didn’t affect you at the ShopRite classic?  

I learned a lot from my experience in Portland. Georgia Hall obviously played amazing to win, but I felt like I let that one kind of slip out of my fingers a little bit. I learned a lot from that experience, though. Going to ShopRite, I felt I was so determined to win that somebody definitely had to play out their boots to beat me.

You were quoted saying the win was a life-changing experience. What about that win was so monumental for you?

It’s hard to win in the LPGA. The women are so talented and so good. Especially in the last four or five years, it’s just been a very difficult thing to do. People try their whole careers and never achieve it. People look at you a bit different and have a different kind of respect for you when you win it. And obviously, opportunities come along with that respect. I like having the bigger platform now that I have my own voice.

I saw that you celebrated like a true champion, filling your trophy with beer. That’s awesome and well deserved. 

Typical Brit celebration, filling it up with beer. It’s all been a little bit of struggle, but ultimately worth it. I got fined for breaking COVID rules, but it was definitely worth every penny. Yeah, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I’m sure you would have loved to win a title a little bit sooner in your career, but how much sweeter did it make it given everything you’ve been through?

I mean, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I think a lot of people can relate to me because I have been through so many struggles, on and off the golf course. I think that’s what made it a really cool win for a lot of people. The messages that I received and the overwhelming support from people that I got meant more to me, because I feel people can really relate to the struggles that I’ve been through. Everyone goes through struggles in life. To overcome them is a big feat and it’s tough. That’s why I felt it was such a special win — not just for me, but for everybody else as well. No matter what you go through, you can get over things if you work hard and keep trying to be the best version of yourself.

I think some of the best athletes are those who can overcome adversity, and I imagine it makes winning that much sweeter. Speaking of adversity, we’ve seen a lot of athletes struggle during the pandemic to stay both fit and focused. How were you able to keep up your game during this time? 

I needed that time off. We’re on the go all the time, and we’re constantly traveling. Honestly, it was a blessing in disguise for me, because I think, like a lot of other athletes and especially golfers, I wanted some months where I could work out at home. I wanted to stay in my own bed, be in my apartment and just live a life of normalcy for a little bit. I got to work on things that I wanted to work on. I got to be with my friends and people here that I’ve never been able to do for that amount of time. I actually really enjoyed it.

It seems like your positivity during these tough times has led you to play better overall too. 

It allowed me personally to kind of just — stop. We’re on the go all the time and don’t really switch off. It allowed me to stop and just do things I wanted to do. As athletes, you don’t live a life of normalcy. After you do it for so many years, it is hard. To live a little bit of normalcy and to actually have some sort of home routine is actually really refreshing. So for me, it was a really good thing.

I know you’ve spoken before about how your life kind of fell apart after the passing of your mother. Have you given yourself a moment to step back and reflect after this win and just look at the personal journey you’ve been on since then?

A little bit, yeah. I mean, there’s obviously loads of things that happen in my life where I’ve kind of had to stop and reflect. For me, moving to America, leaving family, going about it on my own, and then winning — it’s the nice thing after all the sacrifice, having to leave everybody, going my own way, believing that my decision was the right decision and going with my instincts. And then the silver lining, winning this tournament. I love those kinds of moments.

Those are definitely times when I’ve stopped to reflect on my journey over these past five, six years ago. I think it’s important to go back and reflect. It’s important to see where you’ve come from, where you are now and who you’ve become: That’s all part of the journey, isn’t it? I think it’s extremely important to do that.

Was there any point in the last few years that you came close to walking away from golf?

Loads of times. This game drives you nuts. It’s a difficult craft, and when things aren’t going well, it’s awful. You just have to stick with the process. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t have those struggles and those thoughts of quitting. It’s all part of the process.

What motivates you now at this point in your life and your career? I know you mentioned your family and I’m sure your partner and having big wins under your belt.

I want people to look at me and go, “She doesn’t look like the stereotypical girl we see in magazines because she’s got tattoos and she’s a little bit different.”  I want people to feel that they want to take up the game of golf. Whenever I get somebody to say, “Hey, you’re my favorite golf pro” — that, to me, means the world. Whoever wants to take on the game — at any age, any gender, any background — if you want to take up the game of golf one day, do it! I think that would be a pretty cool legacy to leave.

I love that. And I know you have not only inspired people on the golf course but also off of it in your advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. What does being an advocate mean to you and how did coming out as a gay athlete in 2018 change your view of yourself as a public figure?

I was obviously a little bit nervous about it, but I think it’s the best thing that I’ve ever done. You’re going to get some criticism, but the number of people that message me saying that I helped them — they come from all kinds of backgrounds and all ages. I went to the golf club a couple of days after coming out, and this 75-year-old bloke came up to me and said, “My granddaughter’s gay. And I struggled with it at first, but reading your story has really affected me. And I’m going to change it with her.” I had a bunch of messages saying thank you so much, which really helped me.

I now feel more comfortable in myself. I am who I am and I’m proud of who I am. And everyone should feel the same. No matter what background or what sexuality you are, just be the best version of yourself and be proud of who you are. I think it’s huge for any sport when somebody’s just themselves.

There are a lot of people in the world right now who are having to deal with the loss of a family member or a job. What’s the biggest lesson you have to share about what it takes to persevere through difficult times?

The biggest thing is you never get over certain things — you just learn to deal with it or you learn to live with it. You should use it as inspiration, whether it is becoming a better version of yourself, a better mother, father, son, daughter, or hard worker. You can get through anything. The human mind and the human body are very resilient things. As long as you work on it and you just keep making baby steps forward — no matter how small the steps are, as long as you just keep moving forward — you’ll look back one day and be very proud of where you’ve come from and where you are now. That’s probably the biggest piece of advice I can give.