Meg Mallon watches her tee shot yesterday during the UnitedHealthcare Celebrity/Pro Challenge at Highland Meadows.
Bad things do happen to good people. OK, so that s no bulletin. But Meg Mallon isn t your run-of-the-mill good people. And she s surely had a run of bad times.
When Mallon won the 2004 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic it capped a hot spell which saw her win three times in five tournaments. She won the championship of the United States, the championship of Canada, then the championship of Sylvania. At age 41 she was not only at the top of her game, she was dominating the game.
Who could have predicted, as we fast-forward to July of 2007, that she would not have won since.
But, then, I wouldn t have imagined everything that s happened to me in the last three years, either, Mallon said yesterday at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
Meg s sister has fought cancer, it has returned, and she will soon undergo extensive surgery. Mallon s long-ailing mom has been on borrowed time since last October, when doctors gave her anywhere from four to 14 days to live. She is presently in hospice care. And Meg had to fight through the first significant injury of her career.
The result? One top-10 finish since the start of the 2005 season. After a career-best $1.35 million in earnings in 04, the drop-off has progressed from $215,000 to $51,000 to less than $30,000 thus far in 07.
I never took winning for granted, Mallon said. But, for most of my career, I was lucky not to be injured. Now I m going through that, plus some things that, unfortunately, everybody goes through in life, things you can t control and can t fix, as much as you d like to.
The injury began with a bone spur in Mallon s left foot. She kept on playing despite it affecting her swing. She found herself leaning back, if not falling back, awkwardly on her follow-through in an effort to keep pressure off the foot. That, in turn, led to ligament and tendon damage.
I had to stay off of it for five months; didn t touch a club, Mallon said. The doctor said if that didn t work he d put it in a boot, then probably do surgery. Fortunately, the layoff worked. The foot s better.
Her game, for the most part, is not. Meg played pretty well in late May at the Corning Classic, where she tied for 16th, but that marked the only time in her last six starts that she made the cut. Mallon has scored in the 60s just twice this year and has broken par just six times in 22 rounds.
Now she comes to one of her favorite events for the 21st straight year. Mallon was raised in Michigan and attended college at Ohio State. In Toledo, the Michigan-Ohio State melting pot, golf fans love her to death.
So do her peers. A number of years ago, The Blade did a poll of LPGA players and Mallon was voted the nicest golfer on tour. If we did the poll again today, nothing would change.
But always hidden behind her warm smile was a little Raymond Floyd-like fire and ice. She has stared down the best of them en route to winning four major championships.
It is that intensity and that confidence that she hopes to see return to her game.
I m seeing some positive things, Mallon said. I m trying to create some momentum instead of focusing on scores at this point. I played too long on a bad foot and then I had to sit back and not touch a club for five months. It s not easy to find the old rhythm.
But I m certainly trying to do all I can to prepare to win again. If I m not out here to win, then I shouldn t be out here.
Mallon said it with a smile, as always. But there was some fire in her eyes, a good sign as she fights bad times.