Mel Reid discusses life competing on two tours, the Solheim Cup, and why she’s ready for the second stage of her golfing career
After winning your LPGA Tour card at the end of last season, how have you found the transition to playing in the States?
It’s been amazing, I love everything about it, but it’s been like chalk and cheese compared to playing in Europe. Over here in Europe everyone is very friendly – it’s almost like a big family – and it’s a great tour to be a part of, but the LPGA is more of a business. Everyone knows that. People kind of tend to bring their entourage and stick within their clique. As long as you kind of find your network of friends, it’s amazing. You get treated very differently out there purely because there’s more money.
The golf courses are in amazing condition, and the standard of play is unbelievable. The strength in depth is incredible, which is amazing to be around, but if you’re not on your game, your weaknesses get shown up very, very quickly. The way the courses are set up does sometimes turn it into a bit of a putting competition, which isn’t necessarily my strength, so I wish they would put more emphasis on accuracy and length off the tee. I like to think I’m one of the better ball strikers out there, but that’s not being rewarded in the way that it might be if the courses were set up differently.
For instance, it’s rare that a par five isn’t reachable in two, even for the average hitters, which does turn it in a putting shoot out. The standard of wedge play is also incredible, they’re deadly from 100 yards and in.
Does this feel like the beginning of the second stage of your career?
Yes, in many ways it does. I felt that at 29 I just didn’t want to spend another season in Europe. I was getting stale, and it wasn’t motivating me any more.Playing on the LPGA Tour has definitely made me want to become a better player, and to work harder. It has given me a new drive for practising, and for playing, and I kind of feel like I’m a little bit of a kid again, learning all these new things. Getting through Q School was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because I felt that it really was a make or break time in my career.
Was it that black and white?
Yes, it was. I was losing my motivation to compete in Europe, as there were just too few opportunities to play and we weren’t playing for very much money. It is hard to make ends meet, even for the girls that are playing well and winning tournaments. If I hadn’t have got my LPGA Tour card, I would have to had some serious thoughts about doing something else.
How are you coping with a transatlantic schedule?
It is a hard adjustment, but more from a lifestyle point of view than from a performance angle. I’ve played with these girls for years. I know what it’s like. The hardest thing for me is the travel. My family, my friends, my life is in the UK. I’m travelling back and forth every week, and that’s probably been the hardest thing. Coming back on a Monday, having a couple days’ rest, catching up with my coach, and then I’m back out to the States again on a Sunday. That’s probably been the hardest thing for me.
Have you considered moving full-time to America?
I am moving out to the States next year. I don’t want to be playing golf into my mid-40s, so the next 10 years are when I’ve really got to kick on, and if I’m going to do that I am probably going to have to move to America.
It’s been a strange season for you in many ways, with a win at the Vic Open on the LET earlier in the year, and then a string of missed cuts over the summer. How comfortable do you feel with your game right now?
Yeah, the win at the Vic Open was a great confidence booster at the start of the season. I hadn’t won since 2014, so it was great to get that off my back. Whenever you win, it really puts a spring in your step, and it certainly helped seal my place in the Solheim Cup team and set me up for the year.
But then I put my back out at the Australian Open in February. It was a freak injury really, as I did it while sneezing, of all things. The sudden spasm put my back into an awkward angle and irritated one of my lumbar discs, which sounds ridiculous. Because of the pain I was in, I wasn’t able to play in Phoenix in March, and I probably shouldn’t have played the following week’s Kia Classic, and definitely shouldn’t have played ANA Inspiration after that, but felt like I had to because it was a major championship. I struggled for a while, and then I played the Kingsmill Championship in May, and then missed three cuts in a row by a single shot, which was very frustrating.
The difference between missing a cut and contending is very, very small, and I feel like I’ve been very close, but it’s just not quite happened for me. I’ve spent a lot of time with Kev [her coach, Kevin Craggs] working on things, and I feel extremely comfortable with my swing. I’m just not holing as many putts as I would like. I’ve felt like I’ve been striking it solidly and been rolling my putts well, but they’ve just not been dropping.
You’ve worked with Kevin for quite a while now. Can you talk about your relationship with him, and what he’s brought to your game?
I can’t give Kev enough credit. He’s like a second father to me really. I’m very close to him and his family. In my opinion, he’s one of the best coaches out there. He’s saved my career, as I’ve said that more than once, and I give him full credit for that. He’s always got my best interests at heart, and sometimes that’s quite hard to find in a coach. He knows when and when not to say things, and we’re just very similar characters. He tells me what I need to work on, and he tells me when I need to back off. He’s just a great guy. He’s done wonders for my career.
You’ve just started working with a sports psychologist?
Yeah, Kev recommended this guy just before the Scottish Open. He’s an Irish guy named Paul McCarthy. He’s made a big impact already. Perhaps that’s the little change that I needed to shake things up a little.
What does a psychologist need to tell you?
I think the thing is with me is that I’ve been given a lot of information through my career, and I feel like some of it has stuck with me and some of it hasn’t. I feel like with Kev I know what I’m doing with my swing. With Helen Shipman, my fitness coach, I know what I’m doing in the gym, but I don’t know exactly what I’m doing with my head, because so many people are telling me different things. I just kind of wanted to start again, and just stick with one person that Kev recommended. Kev has worked with Paul before, and even from just spending two hours with Paul, he said a couple of things that really resonated with me, which was exciting. I like to think that I’m mentally very strong, but there are times when I kind of dip in and out of it. At the Solheim Cup, I’m mentally strong. When I’m going down the stretch on Sunday, I’m usually strong. If my back is against the wall, I’m usually mentally strong, but I need to be like that on a Thursday morning of regular tournament, and sometimes I don’t do that. That’s hopefully what I feel that Paul is going to help me most, and be a great addition to the team.
It was obviously very disappointing to lose the Solheim Cup last month, but what was your own experience like?
Hats off to the American team, they played some phenomenal golf. We played pretty well too, but they were just that bit better – holed a few more putts and got the crowds behind them, as they always do. We put a lot of red numbers on the board, and the scoring was really low, but when we made birdies one of them made an eagle. You can’t be too disappointed when you play as well as that – you just have to do you best. The team atmosphere was great and Annika [Sorenstam] did an incredible job. We had a lot of fun, and we really pulled together as a team, but we were beaten by the better side on the day.
You’ve been on one winning and two losing Solheim teams now – are they complete opposites in terms of how they feel, or do you judge them by your own performances?
Yes, it’s a weird one. I didn’t play very well at Killeen in 2013, yet we won. Of course, I was buzzing that we’d won, but on the other hand I was disappointed in my own performance. And then I was unbeaten in Germany, yet the team lost. The defeat was very hard to take, especially with what went on that week. It wasn’t a very enjoyable week for lots of reasons. And then this time, I thought I played ok, but didn’t score as many points, and we lost, but it seemed like a very positive experience given the circumstances. All three felt very different for very different reasons.
What was it like to play in front of such a big crowd – the largest in Solheim Cup history?
It was incredible. Obviously, 95% of the spectators were rooting for the home side, but they were very respectful. But it was amazing to play in front of what was probably one of the biggest crowds for a women’s sporting event that you’re going to get. I have friends at home who know that I play golf, but the Solheim Cup is only event they watch every two years. So that is what this tournament is about. It’s about getting people that wouldn’t normally come and watch to be interested in it and really get involved in it. And this is why we do what we do. We work extremely hard and feel like we don’t get the recognition we sometimes deserve. We try and put our sport out there and make it as enjoyable for people to watch as possible.
The LET is obviously going through a difficult period, with few tournaments and a lack of decent prize money. Do you think that played a part in the Solheim defeat?
It’s hard to see how it didn’t. Floryntena Parker came in on the back of playing in only three or four tournaments, which is hardily ideal preparation. I feel so sorry for those girls who’ve just come on tour, and had virtually no competitive golf to play before the summer.
You clearly enjoy playing a lot of team sports, with your football career, is that why you enjoy the Solheim Cup?
Yeah, I’ve always liked team sports and thrive in that team atmosphere, where you can feed off each other. Although golf is an individual sport for the most part, I’ve always tried to make it a team thing, which is why I like to surround myself with a team of people. Sadly, I’ve had to give up the football now, as I just couldn’t devote the time to it now that I’m in the States so much. Our team was in the Northern Premier League and we were competing against teams like Newcastle and Blackburn, so it was getting a bit serious. I still play a bit for fun, but it’s all about the golf for me now.
You turn 30 this month – is that much of a psychological hurdle for you, and where do you feel your career is at from what thought you might be when you started out on tour 10 years ago?
Turning 30 doesn’t bother me to be honest. As you say, I’ve been on tour for 10 years now, but I still feel reasonably fresh and fit. If anything, I feel like I’ve got a few years to catch up, as I kind of lost myself for a while following my mum’s death In 2012, which obviously set me back. I certainly didn’t think I’d have to wait until I was 29 before I had my rookie year on the LPGA Tour, so I’m a long way behind where I thought I’d be, but life sometimes doesn’t pan out the way you expected. Now, I’m looking to knuckle down over the next 10 years and see where it takes me. If I’m winning majors at 40 years of age, that’s just the way I’m going to have to do it.