An Interview With: Meg Mallon
MEG MALLON: Judy Bell came up to me on Sunday morning (of the final round) and said, "Meg, it's Massachusetts, it's the U.S. Open and an American is winning on the Fourth of July. And I looked at the tee sheets and I'm like, ‘Ooh, I think I'm the only American' (Kelly Robbins was the other).
The U.S. Open is my favorite event. I have had success and I have heartbreak in it. And I feel lucky for both. Clayton was gracious enough to let me practice here with Mike McGetrick, my pro. I have a little history at Cherry Hills myself. I think it's going to go against me because I have played Cherry Hills, but I have never played it under Mr. [Tom] Meeks' standards. Eventually, I am going to have to change my mindset. But I am excited to see how it will be set up and it's about time that Cherry Hills had a women's championship here (first USGA women's event at course). I've always thought that this would be a great Women's Open venue.
Q: When you look at more recent players from Susan Berning to Patty Sheehan, Betsy King, Hollis (Stacy), you, Juli Inkster, Annika (Sorenstam) and Karrie Webb have all won multiple Women's Opens. What is it about your games that allowed you to win multiple championships?
Mallon: The greatest lesson that I ever had in a Women's Open was actually in 1990, playing with Patty Sheehan and Jane Geddes in the final round at Atlanta Athletic Club. We had to play 36 holes on Sunday and Patty Sheehan had a 10-shot lead at one point during the first 18. I watched the most crazy thing happen that day. This is the U.S. Open and unfortunately for Patty Sheehan she had to play 36 holes on Sunday. You just saw the emotions and energy draining out of her. And Betsy King is just hanging around, playing par golf, which I love about the Open; that par golf is a good score. Patty ended up losing by one shot that day. Hollis played with Betsy. And I learned so much from that experience. I actually used that last year because I knew that Jen Rosales, who had a three-shot lead, had all this energy going. I think she used all her adrenaline on the first hole when she birdied the hole. She was pumping her fist and I'm sitting back there 41 years old like, "You shouldn't do this." And the same thing transpired. The adrenaline and energy started running out of her because she expended so much. So what I learned in 1990, I was able to use during the final round on Sunday last year.
Q: This is a course that you are familiar with, so why do you think it might be a good course for you?
Mallon: It's a traditional golf course and like courses with smaller greens and tighter fairways. I like courses where even par is a good score. This is a great venue for me because of the way it is going to be set up.
Q: What are some of the key holes?
Mallon: That's tough because every hole is so good. Eighteen is going to be a fabulous finishing hole. [The championship] will probably come down to that hole. Although 17, the par 5, I think people are either going to try and go for it (in two) or have to hit a great wedge shot in there. Those finishing holes are pretty tough. This is a championship golf course that has definitely held up over time. And those finishing holes are going to decide this tournament.
Q: It's been kind of a struggle this year for you?
Mallon: Well I shot 69 yesterday (in final round of Chick-Fil-A Charity Championship). It's all about yesterday. It's just been a really slow start for me. Last year I started out slow, I did have a sixth-place finish, and then I got into that five-week span that was just so much fun. I'm hoping that will happen again. I'm actually in a nine out of 11 week swing right now and the bulk of my schedule really kicked in with the Michelob Ultra Classic, so I definitely have to make some improvements. I have (my teacher) Mike (McGetrick) waiting in the wings to give me an emergency lesson. It's helpful that he is here before I go off to New York tonight (for the Sybase Classic). But it's been a struggle that I haven't had for actually quite a while. So it's been a challenge for me, but I don't mind that.
Q: What is it that you will be working on? Do you have a specific game plan to prepare for the Women's Open?
Mallon: Mike works with Juli Inkster, Wendy Ward and Beth Daniel and we got the funniest phone call from him last week. ‘ I want you to have your (equipment) rep send out 24 dozen golf balls to me so when you come out before the Open we're going to take out every club in your bag and see how far you hit it in the altitude..' Mike never does stuff like this, so you know he is so excited about us coming here in his backyard to play. And Juli and I just laughed because we know the manufacturers will never send us 24 dozen golf balls. If we got a dozen golf balls we might be out there selling our clubs. Mike and I do have a great relationship and I am coming out a couple of days early basically to get used to the altitude.
Q: Do you have memories of the 1995 Women's Open that was played in Colorado at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs?
Mallon: I have bad memories. I started (the final round) with a three-shot lead kind of like Jen Rosales did last year. And I got a really bad ruling from (Rules official) Barbara McIntire (draws laughter). On the shortest hole probably in U.S. Women's Open history, a 139-yard par 3, I made a triple (bogey). That was No. 4. I went on to play par golf from that point on. And this young Swede, Annika Sorenstam, just like Betsy King (in 1990) was just kind of hanging around and shot a couple under par. I had an opportunity with a putt on the last hole to tie her and missed it. But if you would have told me that I was going to win the Open 10 years later, I would have accepted it.
Q: Can you talk about what Annika Sorenstam is doing right now in women's golf?
Mallon: It is so great when an athlete like a Michael Jordan or someone is at the peak of their athletic ability is at the peak of their talent. She's playing like that right now. And it's a shame that it isn't being talked about. Truly, this is amazing what she is doing. They broke down her swing on the telecast and every inch of her swing is perfect and we are all trying to do that. Every professional like Michael Jordan is trying to do that. But when you see it over and over and over again what she is doing, it's unparalleled. She is just getting more and more confidence from getting that reinforcement from hitting one solid shot after another. It's just phenomenal. It's amazing watching. It's like one of those you want to see in your lifetime. I was around when Annika Sorenstam was playing the greatest golf in history.
Q: Is there a feeling out there on the LPGA Tour that everyone else is playing for second because of Annika's dominance?
Mallon: I don't think that was ever the case on the PGA Tour because Tiger (Woods) was playing phenomenal golf in 2000. I think every player thinks that they can win. Annika has certainly set a standard that is pretty high.
Q: What are some things that you remember from playing at Cherry Hills that made you a better player?
Mallon: This little par-3 course out here. I remember I was struggling with my wedge game so we went out to the par-3 course and hit nothing but wedges and I went out and had a very good year. This is a great practice facility for you to hone your game.