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Published: Monday, 8/2/2004

Mallon has learned to win

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Meg Mallon has already earned $1 million this year on the LPGA Tour and ranks fourth all-time on the tour's money list. Meg Mallon has already earned $1 million this year on the LPGA Tour and ranks fourth all-time on the tour's money list.
JONATHAN HAYWARD / AP Enlarge

Meg Mallon calls herself a late bloomer.

She began taking lessons and playing golf at the age of 7, but it was another decade before she played competitively. Few colleges gave her a look, so she walked on at Ohio State. She joined the LPGA Tour, qualifying by the skin of her teeth, as a non-exempt player and earned $1,472 in 1987. She played the tour for five years before she won.

"I didn't start winning until I was 27 years old," Mallon said in a telephone interview last week from Berkshire, England. "I mean, Karrie Webb, Se Ri [Pak] and Annika [Sorenstam] probably each had 20 wins by that age.

"Part of me felt like, you know, I would never win on the LPGA. But once I did, I really liked it."

And once she did, there has been no stopping her.

Mallon posted back-to-back victories in early July - she captured her fourth major championship and second U.S. Women's Open title, then followed with a win at the Canadian Women's Open - at age 41 to bring her LPGA victory total to 17.

She has already cashed $1 million this year and ranks fourth on the tour's all-time money list with more than $8.2 million, is No. 1 on the points list for next year's U.S. Solheim Cup team and is within serious shouting distance of qualifying for the LPGA's Hall of Fame.

Not bad for somebody who doubted she would ever be a winner.

"I think because I started late, I've been able to lengthen my career out," Mallon said. "It's a wonderful way to make a living. I love doing it."

For the past two weeks she has been doing it in Europe, where she continued her fine play with a sixth-place tie at the Evian Masters near Paris before stumbling a bit and missing the cut in the Women's British Open that was concluded yesterday.

Next up is this week's Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club, and Mallon, for one, can't wait to arrive here.

"I miss home," she said. "I miss my baseball team. I'm looking forward to getting back to Toledo."

Baseball? Toledo? Are the Mud Hens her team?

"Well, they're the minor league team, aren't they?" she replied, laughing. "I'm looking forward to seeing how the Tigers and Red Sox are doing. Unfortunately, from the brief updates we get over here, I guess the Yankees keep winning. I'm a little discouraged by that."

Mallon's allegiances are split because of her upbringing. She was born in Natick, Mass., just west of Boston, and can't help but be a Celtics and Red Sox fan. But she grew up in Michigan and cheered for the Tigers.

"Toledo is like home for me. I grew up in Michigan, went to Ohio State, and my brothers live in Detroit. I'm looking forward to seeing my family again."

Mallon will be playing in the Farr Classic for the 19th time in 20 years and is tied with fellow LPGA veteran Dale Eggeling for most appearances in Toledo's tournament.

To do so, she is among a large contingent of players who are in the midst of a Paris-London-Toledo swing on the tour schedule.

"It's the travel that's difficult, that and trying to catch up on your sleep. You know, coming from the U.S. over to France is a six-hour time difference. Then it was right to London for a major championship. It's very taxing, very tough.

"But we all look at the schedule and know what's involved. You just have to make sure you get as much rest as you can. It was hard getting to sleep at night in France, at least for me, because my body says it's the middle of the day."

The time change makes the return trip a little easier, perhaps, but Mallon said she's definitely going to have to find time to do laundry.

Then, perhaps, she'll clean up on the Farr field.

"I think I've had a very consistent career. But I also appreciate catching a little lightning in a bottle. I feel like I've done that recently and I'd like to keep it going as long as I can."

Contact Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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