Q&A: Meg Mallon, 2004 U.S. Women's Open Champion - MASSGOLF

Catching Up With Meg Mallon, The 2004 U.S. Women’s Open Champion At The Orchards & World Golf Hall of Famer

A portion of this interview with Mallon is featured in the Fall 2022 edition of MassGolfer Magazine. The following is the full interview. 

MassGolfer: MassGolfer: When Bay Staters think about the town of Natick, they think of Doug Flutie. But he was born in Maryland in 1962 and you were born in Natick in 1963. Please explain.

Meg Mallon: Ha… how about that. We left Natick when I was 11-months old for Detroit, where my father worked for Ford Motor Company. I was the youngest of six kids. The three oldest were raised in New England and three youngest in Michigan.

 

MG:You sure sounded like a Mass native in your World Golf Hall of Fame induction speech in 2017, when you said: “To be perfectly clear about my loyalties, I am a Celtics [and] Red Sox fan.” 

MM: It’s true. We took our loyalty with us when we moved. My father’s family still lived back east so our summer vacations were spent on Cape Cod visiting relatives and friends, including some longtime friends like K.C. Jones and Bob Cousy of the Celtics and Earl Wilson, the Sox pitcher who also played in Detroit.

MG: Any big golf kudos in high school and college in Michigan?

MM: I was going through the public school system and I played basketball among many other sports. I was playing in a weekend Catholic league and the basketball coach at Mercy High School saw me playing and asked me if I’d like to come play at Mercy.

My mom and dad were all for it. So that was really a huge fork in the road because that got me going to an all-girls Catholic high school to play basketball. They didn’t even have a golf team then. I played softball the first two years along with basketball.

My mom and another parent started a golf club because to have a team you needed a club and then, as long as you paid the 30 bucks, you could get into a state tournament and play in team events around the state. That’s what got me noticed in golf by the Michigan State golf coach. And on my recruiting trip there I found out about the Ohio State program and I contacted them. When I went down there to play for the Ohio State coach, he said he really wanted me to come but he had no scholarships. They had already used them all up with seven freshmen coming in that year.

It was another fork in the road for my parents, with six kids, to pay an out-of-state tuition which was pretty incredible on their part. I ended up getting a full ride for my senior year. That opportunity to play for a university changed things for me.

 

MG: And you finished second in the Big Ten Championship?

MM: I did in my senior year of 1985. I just kind of gradually improved. I was so raw. My parents put me in golf lessons when I was seven years old, but In Michigan golf was a three-to-four month sport so I was playing everything else from Little League baseball to swimming to tennis and basketball.

Golf was kind of like my fourth sport growing up. Basketball was my first love but I didn’t get any taller. I came into high school 5-foot, 6 inches and left at 5-foot, 6-and-a-half. I didn’t have a whole lot of speed and no jumping ability. So golf was my sport and I was lucky to be able to compete in college.

 

MG: You won the 2004 U.S. Women’s Open here at The Orchards with a final round 6-under-par 65, still the lowest score in a final round by a winner of this major. What was working that day?

MM:I couldn’t not make a putt. There were holes I hit it close and made 4- or 5-footers, but I also made a near 60-foot birdie on the 4th and a 25-foot par on the 15th. I was paired in the last group with Jen Gonzalez who had a 3-shot lead coming into the last round over me, Annika Sörenstam and Kelly Robbins. Annika and Kelly were playing right in front of me, and were feeding off each other. Annika birdied the last two holes, and  I was just trying to match birdies. But parring each of my last four holes was good enough for a 2-shot margin over Annika.

 

MG: So, you had 24 putts in the final round? I read a quote from you that the cup looked like a bucket. 

MM:Yeah, I’m sure it did. Especially when I made that 25-foot putt for par on 15th hole. I hit a weak tee shot out to the right. My approach shot was a tricky little pitch shot and I didn’t commit to it and advanced it only to the front of the green. But I made the putt from the fringe, like 25 feet and I’m thinking, okay, this might be my day. But I still had three really hard holes left, the 16th, 17th and 18th, so I couldn’t let my guard down.

So all these connections stayed there. My family is longtime fans of these players and these teams.That was great fun and an amazing way to play a last round of the U.S. Open

It was very strange because I had won the Open in 1991 and then I had so many close finishes. I finished second in 1995 and finished second in 2000. And it just became a heartbreaking thing for me.

I had never heard of The Orchards. I had heard of Donald Ross and was excited about that because I’m a huge fan of Donald Ross courses so I knew it was going to be good.

Months before some random people from New England came up to me in Florida and said you’re going to win the Open this year. It was almost like winning was implanted in me months before I got there. And I loved the course when I got there but they kind of lost the greens. The USGA did an amazing job to make them putt-able for us.

My five siblings had come out to watch me… and K.C. Jones came out to watch me play in the first round. He was living in Hartford at the time. It’s like all these things fell in line. It gave me a sense of calm and purpose. And I remember on the 17th tee we had a 20-minute wait so that was painful so there was a lot of things happening coming in but it all worked out.

 

MG: Your other Open win came in 1991. Trailing Bay State native Pat Bradley by 3 strokes with 10 holes to play, you overtook Pat, who finished runner-up, 2 strokes back.

MM:I actually finished way ahead of the last pairing with Pat in it, so I had to wait 45 minutes to see if I won. I shot a 67, the low round of the day, and I was the only player under par.

 

MG: The 13-year gap from your 1991 win to your 2004 win is largest in U.S. Women’s Open history. 

MM: I had close calls, 2nd in 1995 and tied 2nd in 2000, but glad I won again in Massachusetts.