Slow courting process for Meg Mallon

AP Photo/Jonathan Hayward

Meg Mallon's heart belonged to basketball when she was a kid, but her raw talent in golf turned her toward the greens.

Meg Mallon always knew she was going to be a professional athlete some day. She just didn't have the sport quite right.

"I was sure I was going to be a professional basketball player some day," said the U.S. Solheim Cup captain, who won four major titles during her LPGA career and earned more than $9 million. "And that was before there was even a professional league for women."

The youngest of six kids, Mallon sought competition in many forms growing up, from swimming and Little League to basketball and tennis. She had professional athletics and the Olympics on her brain at a young age.

Golf was somewhat of an afterthought. Since her parents were members of a club, she began learning to play at the age of 7. Living in Birmingham, Mich., however, afforded them only four or five months of green time each year. She remembers summers on the links not for long shots and precise putts, but for the time spent with her mom.

"Some of my fondest memories are from the two of us playing nine holes back then," she said. "She spent a lot of time with me out there."

It was also her mom who helped Mallon start a club team at her high school when she reached her sophomore year.

"We paid $35 to get into the state tournament, and we were a club, not yet a team," Mallon said.

That was 34 years ago. Today, Mercy High School has varsity, JV and B squads thanks to Mallon and her mom. Mallon sees that as one of her greatest legacies.

By the time she was ready to graduate, Mallon realized golf would give her an avenue to continue competing in the college ranks. Even though she was still partial to basketball, she hung up her high-tops and headed to Ohio State with her clubs in tow.

There, she honed her skills and worked on her technique. Having long played with heavy, hand-me-down clubs from her dad, she began correcting the pause she had developed at the top of her swing.

It wasn't until she was 23, however, that she says she truly became passionate about the sport.

"I was a raw talent, and I got away with that for some time," she said. "When Mike McGetrick started coaching me, that's when I really fell in love with the game, because it was the first time I had purpose and saw marked improvements."

It was a remarkable series of lightbulb moments that, fueled by rapid progress in her game, made her hungry for more. It all added up to a 23-year professional career that included 18 titles.

"To get from one level to the next with confidence and love, it felt more like play than work," she said. "I was lucky things progressed the way they did, and I think it was the reason my career was so long."

Mallon remains astounded by the doors golf continues to open for her since she retired in 2010. After playing in the Solheim Cup for Team USA on eight occasions (going 13-9-7), she'll serve as U.S. captain this week at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo.

"It's amazing I can be involved in the greatest event I ever played in after my career is over," she said. "It's so fun to watch these young players at the beginning, getting excited and hitting shots they've never hit before. It takes me right back."

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