All Scores

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

Players posing with trophy/ JWS
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.

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

After a record-breaking Draft Night, WNBA roster cuts loom

2023 WNBA no. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston playing for the indiana fever
Despite going No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston had to fight hard to make it onto Indiana's roster. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2024 WNBA Draft has officially concluded, leaving the newly minted rookie class facing a tough road ahead.

Only 144 roster slots are available throughout the league’s 12 teams, the reason why the players are sometimes referred to as the “144.” And Monday’s draft picks are set to join a large group of established players competing for those same roster spots, from seasoned veterans to young athletes determined to prove their value on the court.

Last year, just 15 of the league’s 36 draftees made it onto their drafting team's opening-day squad.

In reality, there are oftentimes fewer than 144 spots available, as not every team maxes out their roster. Per the league's CBA, each team roster must maintain a minimum standard of 11 players, but those lists can include players out with injuries or on other forms of leave. Players can also be assigned to short-term hardship contracts, something waived players must be prepared for at any point during the season.

Earlier this week, Laeticia Amihere — a 2022 national champion with South Carolina who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream — took to TikTok to provide some insight into the WNBA training camp process. 

"You can either get drafted on Draft Night, or you can get signed by a team," she said. "Once that happens, you go to training camp literally like two weeks later... Basically everybody's got to try out. There's 12 roster spots, and there's like 18 people at the at the trial."

@laeticiaamihere Replying to @dantavius.washington #wnba #draft ♬ original sound - Laeticia Amihere

Amihere also had an important point to make: Getting cut does not signify a player’s abilities. 

"If you get cut after training camp, that does not mean you're not good," she said. "That does not mean that player sucks, don't stop supporting that player. Literally, there's so many reasons somebody can get cut."

"If you guys look at the best players in the league, most of them have bounced around teams," she added. "And I promise you it is not a bad thing, it's just how the league is."

Things, however gradually, are changing. With Golden State's WNBA team scheduled to launch in time for the 2025 season, league expansion is just around the corner. On Monday, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league is aiming to grow to 16 teams by 2028. But by then, it might be too little too late for the generation of talent emerging from an increasingly competitive NCAA system.

WNBA draft shatters records with 2.45 million viewers

wide shot of BAM during the 2024 WNBA Draft
It wasn't just attendees that were glued to the on-stage action at the 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Monday night’s WNBA draft added to the nationwide uptick in record-breaking women's sports viewership, pulling in 2.45 million viewers throughout the nearly two-hour broadcast and peaking at 3.09 million, according to an ESPN release. 

That number shatters the previous draft viewership record — 601,000 in 2004 — which was fueled primarily by then-No. 1 pick Diana Taurasi entering the league after UConn's historic three-peat March Madness performance.  

The 2023 WNBA draft drew 572,000 viewers, the most for any televised WNBA event since 2.74 million tuned in to NBC for a Memorial Day matchup between the New York Liberty and Houston Comets back in 2000.

While many came to watch Caitlin Clark get drafted No. 1 overall, it’s important to note that viewership didn’t take a massive dip after the superstar shooter left the stage. The numbers show that a bulk of the audience stuck around to watch the remainder of the show, making 2024's event not just the most-viewed WNBA draft in history, but also the most-viewed WNBA program to ever air on ESPN platforms.

Draft Day's popularity is yet another sign indicating an expected rise in WNBA regular season viewership. Clark and Iowa's NCAA tournament showdown with the Chicago Sky-bound Kamilla Cardoso's South Carolina side drew a record 18.7 million to ABC's Sunday afternoon broadcast. Banking on this trend, 36 of Indiana's upcoming 40 games are set to be shown on national television. In-person ticket sales are also soaring, leading the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces to re-home their matchup with the Fever to a venue that can accommodate some 6,000 more fans.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.