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Player's Journal

Meghan MacLaren: The One That Keeps You Coming Back


Meghan MacLaren is a professional golfer, and also one of the most original and insightful writers on the game. She was a prolific winner of collegiate events while studying at Florida International University, and, since turning pro in 2016, has claimed two titles on the Ladies European Tour. Her blog – megmaclaren.com — is a must-read for anyone interested in what it feels like to compete at the sharp end. This is Meghan’s first column for Sounder. We’re thrilled.
Meghan MacLaren: The One That Keeps You Coming Back

I am two-thirds of the way through the first round of the Spanish Open, the last event of the 2020 Ladies European Tour season. It’s been a season that none of us could have predicted, largely because the world tried to stop turning amidst a global pandemic. But to the grateful surprise of most of us players, it’s a season that we’ve been able to restart.

It’s late November and we’re in Andalucia on the Costa del Sol. By this point I have played in enough events to feel all the frustrations and demons and quiet optimism associated with trying to be a successful professional golfer. My previous outing, in Dubai, was one of those "should have won" tournaments, a lingering pain that is far more acute than "could have won".

Costa del Sol? The rain has actually worsened. A few minutes ago it was merely relentless as I hammered a 20-footer up a tier in the green as if it were the final 100 yards of Everest. Now though, we’ve turned back into the driving wind as well. Who is it to tee off? Should we go? Where’s the group behind us? Have they decided to stop? Should we? This is a joke. I’ll go.

Frustration finally overrides sense – frustration that has been simmering from the second green. It’s been a round that has been trying to get away from me since those first two measly holes, forcing a kind of angry, fed-up determination that seems to be a quality of mine, bringing glimmers of hope with each well struck iron shot and last-second lip out.

Those glimmers were suddenly and forcefully extinguishes in a 15-minute deluge around the turn: three putts from 12 feet followed by a double bogey five on an innocuously calm par-3. The angry, fed-up determination is now angry, fed-up dejection. I’m 10 holes into my first round and all thoughts of winning the tournament have been blown apart by a hand grenade that I’m still holding. It’s a re-evalution that I’m not yet ready for.

"Can’t wait to nail a three wood that’s still short" is written in every line of my scowl

So now, three holes and many stop-starts later, each member of our three ball is silently longing for a "play suspended" horn that refuses to come. I end a ‘stop’ period with a driver that splashes its way up the fairway in front of me. “Can’t wait to nail a three wood that’s still short” is written in every line of my scowl as I walk back to my caddie (my unfortunate father, in this instance, who is desperately trying not to complain at my one-towel-in-the-bag lack of foresight).

There are ducks, actual ducks, hundreds of them, oblivious to my all-consuming rage, paddling in multiple locations between my ball and the green. I’m first to hit my approach, and the others turn to me, deciding now must surely be the time to cut our losses and wait it out. The group behind appears, by its absence, to have made that decision long ago.

Sensible decisions are counter-intuitive to me at this point, so I pull out my rescue. My thought process requires few actual thoughts: “Smash the shit out of this and watch the rain pull it out of the sky 20 yards before it should”. I proceed to smash the shit out of it, and the ball sets off, high and penetrating, making it onto the front edge of the green, only 25 feet from the flag.

Grudging satisfaction still masquerades as anger as I trudge to the green, putter wedged into my jacket. I am clutching an umbrella that seems to be wet on the inside. I finally spot a referee, which is good news that I choose to keep to myself because the concept of ‘good’ isn’t something I feel deserving of at this point.

Instead, the irony of the referee’s appearance becomes fuel: "just putt, the horn will blow mid-stroke, maybe causing an aggressive enough jab that I’ll hit it off the green entirely". But still… routine, read, focus – professionalisms that the incessant rain and the fireball of frustration raging within still can’t reach. The quiet question of hope arrives before I can silence it with a glare. Surely a putt has to go in, eventually?

I know it’s in before it gets there. A birdie. Really? In this shit? You must be quite good. You know you are. The horn blows as we walk to the next. Timing. Only four over par now. Come back in the morning, finish this round, crack on with the next – 23 holes in a day. Under par for the tournament by the end of play tomorrow? That’s realistic isn’t it? Damn right it is. I’m pretty good. I’m still in this fucker.

Follow Meghan MacLaren on Instagram and Twitter.  Picture credit PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo