Daniel and Mallon hosting Bethesda benefit
By Craig Dolch
It has been six months since Meg Mallon retired as a professional golfer, but the reality is about to set in when the 2011 LPGA Tour’s schedule soon begins and her calendar isn’t filling up with tournament dates and travel information.
“That’s when it’s really going to hit me,” Mallon said. “I’m not preparing to play tournament golf like I usually am. But I know I made the right decision. That’s the good news.”
At 47, Mallon knew it was time to step away from the game when she was no longer getting mad about poor shots. Her decision came on the eve of last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, a championship she had won twice among her standout, 18-victory, four-major LPGA career.
But it’s not like she’s been hanging out in a rocking chair at her Ocean Ridge home, going through old photos. She thinks she’s actually traveling as much now as she was during her 23-year career.
Mallon has been busy buying a home to renovate in her native Michigan; she has played in a couple of Legends events; she assists the LPGA Tour in various capacities — she will be the captain of the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team; and she hopes to someday start an American junior golf academy.
Moreover, on Jan. 17, she and LPGA Hall of Famer Beth Daniel host the Bethesda Pro-Am Golf Tournament at The Falls Country Club in Lake Worth. Starting last year, Mallon and Daniel took over a tournament that was run by Bob Murphy and Laurie Hammer for four decades at Delray Dunes Country Club.
“Bob was ready to move on, and for Beth and myself, this is a great opportunity to give back because for both of us, Bethesda is our community hospital,” Mallon said. “This is the first time we’re going to hold the tournament on Martin Luther King Day, and we hope to make that our permanent date.”
Mallon has plenty of personal reasons to give back to the medical community, because her family has endured several tragedies in the last decade. Her father died of a heart attack in late 2005, four years after her mother suffered a disabling brain hemorrhage (her mother was recently placed in hospice for the second time). If that weren’t enough, Mallon’s older sister, Tricia, lost a long battle with a rare form of abdominal cancer in 2009.
“Big family, big love, big problems,” said Mallon, who put her career on hold several times to assist with her family.
That devotion likely cost Mallon a chance to earn Hall of Fame honors (she is five points short of the automatic number of 27). Mallon, whose last win came in 2004, could also get in the Hall of Fame through a vote from the veteran’s committee.
“I would think she would have a chance to eventually get in the Hall of Fame,” said former LPGA President Judy Dickinson, who chaired the committee that drew up the Hall of Fame criteria.
“There are a number of players who had great careers that were cut short either by injuries or things in their family. The thing about Meg is she was a heckuva player. You don’t win four majors unless you are a very good player.”
As accomplished a player as Mallon was, her peers always say she was an even better person.
“She was one of the most well-liked players on tour,” Dickinson said. “She was extremely fan friendly and terrific with the sponsors. She gave all the ways you can give.”
Former LPGA pro Dottie Pepper also praised Mallon’s tenacity and personality.
“I suppose her biggest impact was her ability to always grind out a round or a tournament when her game wasn’t firing on every cylinder,” Pepper said. “She always had a ‘glass half-full’ attitude and I loved the fact success did not change her one bit.”
Mallon moved to Ocean Ridge in 1999 — not far from where she won her first LPGA title in 1991, the Oldsmobile LPGA Classic in Lake Worth. The shift proved to be beneficial for her career, as she won half of her 18 titles in the next six years.
“I went on to have the best years of my career after I moved here,” she says. “I don’t think that was a coincidence.”
In addition to the two U.S. Women’s Opens, Mallon’s other major titles were the 1991 Mazda LPGA Championship and the 2000 du Maurier Classic. She also played on eight Solheim Cup teams.
Mallon was recently elected into the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame; it will mark the fourth time she has been inducted into a hall of fame (she’s also in the Ohio State University Hall of Fame, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame).
She’s not ready to ruminate yet, however.
Mallon said her biggest priority is to work with the LPGA to start the American junior golf academies. Having been with the LPGA during its heyday of the 1990s and early-2000s, Mallon knows the tour needs assistance by finding younger stars.
“We have great programs in place such as the First Tee and the American Junior Golf Association, but there are gaps where we lose the kids,” Mallon said. “They find reasons not to continue in the game. We’re trying to fill those gaps, and that’s something I have a lot of passion for doing.”
1/17 - 2nd Annual Bethesda Pro-Am Golf Tournament is held at The Falls Country Club, 6455 Jog Road, Lake Worth. Play begins at 12:30 pm with a shotgun start. Admission is free for spectators. 737-7733, Ext. 5600.