Rising From Tragedy, Melissa Reid Is Back For Another Solheim Cup

Once a budding European star, Melissa Reid hopes to use the Solheim Cup as a springboard to becoming a world contender again. Courtesy LET

In 2011, at Killeen Castle, Ireland, Melissa Reid was a 23-year-old with the golfing world at her feet. The three-time Ladies European Tour winner had just won her first Solheim Cup point alongside Laura Davies, and it seemed only a matter of time before Reid assumed Davies' mantle as Britain's No. 1 woman golfer.

Reid's mother, Joy, watched from the ropes, waving a European flag. "I love my Mel," she said, beaming with pride.

Four years later, at St. Leon-Rot in Germany, Reid returns to the European Solheim Cup team having endured a period of loss, grief and confusion that not only threatened her second appearance in the event but also her continued participation in the sport.

In May 2012, Joy Reid, 62, and her husband, Brian, were involved in a head-on collision near Munich prior to watching Melissa contend in a Ladies European Tour event. Brian survived, but Joy died the morning after the accident from internal injuries.

News of her death rocked players, officials, caddies, in fact everyone on the tour. Players talked of the times Joy had placed an arm around their shoulders after poor results and the words of encouragement she had offered in times of need. Everybody remembered her laugh and eagerness to find out how they were. Davies described it as "by far the worst day I've known on tour."

And it was, of course, all too apparent that if friends and acquaintances were so devastated, the sense of loss for Reid, her father and their family was beyond comprehension.

Four weeks after the accident Reid not only returned to the tour but completed a stunning victory at the Prague Masters. As the tight-knit LET community urged Reid across the finish line, fellow player Becky Brewerton said the scenes around the final green were the "most emotional I've ever seen on a golf course."

But the high was short-lived. Reid admits that it papered over the cracks. Feelings remained raw and her life spiraled downward for two years. On the course her world ranking slumped to 333, and off the course? "I was a mess," she told espnW ahead of this week's match. "I wasn't coping, I was rebelling. I was spending time with people who partied. I was hitting the self-destruct button. I was with a lot of people, but I was lonely."

Eventually, in November of last year, her friend and one-time Curtis Cup partner, Breanne Loucks, told Reid she needed a change and suggested coach Kevin Craggs, best known for his work with Catriona Matthew. Reid revealed that the initial meeting was startlingly straightforward. "Kev asked me if I still wanted it. Just like that. I said: I don't know."

That introduction suggests boldness on Craggs' part and reticence on Reid's, and yet it is also clear that Reid sensed a bond. Craggs certainly did.

"There was an immediate chemistry," he said. "She liked and understood how I expressed my ideas, I liked her ability to listen and adapt, and we trusted each other."

There is an infectious enthusiasm about Craggs. He loves golf and he loves golfers, but there is something else: "I always say to my players when they first come: I can teach you and to do that I don't need to know you. But to coach you, that's very different. Teaching improves the swing, coaching improves your psychological outlook, your lifestyle, your tactical game, everything."

Craggs is as much mentor as coach, and Reid, now 27, needed that mentoring because she had contemplated quitting. "I was having doubts for two years," she said, before adding with her trademark wide grin: "I didn't really have anything else to do, though.

"I was lucky, Kev saved my career. I sat with him at breakfast after we started and I just told him everything, stuff I'd never said out loud. It wasn't easy, but doing it lifted such a weight off my shoulders."

Beyond personalities, Craggs' methods suit Reid, too. He likes to boot camp his players, something that fires Reid's imagination.

"Mel is very athletic and it works for her," he said. "Boot camp is intense, competitive and there's a real sense of accountability. We create good habits, take responsibility, have good values."

Reid grew in confidence over the winter: "I began to notice that for the first time in ages I wanted golf again. I worked harder, I had more focus and I began to get rewards." In May she returned to Turkey, scene of her first professional win in 2010, and claimed her fifth LET title, the first since Prague.

Ahead of the Solheim Cup both are aware that her story will be in the spotlight. "There will be a lot of excitement and a lot of distraction," Craggs said. "But she's dealt with a lot this year and conquered demons.

"She's found the win again. She's never played well in the European Masters and we addressed that. Then she returned to Prague. We talk these things through, we plan how to approach them and we'll do the same for the Solheim. We'll focus on it being a really positive experience, another springboard to help get her where she wants to be -- a world contender."

When asked to put his finger on the difference between the Reid he first met and the Reid of today, Craggs said: "We recently discussed that very subject and you know what I told her? I said: You possess the B word and the B word is balance. Career, technique, thinking and lifestyle, they're all in balance. When a sportsperson -- or a businessman, or anyone for that matter -- is at their happiest, they're in balance."

Reid understands that. "Having what has happened to me as a professional golfer, in sport, is difficult. I was having to put on a face and it was hard work. I was sad, I was feeling really sad. Now I feel very different.

"I don't want to not talk about it because I don't want people to forget what sort of woman my mum was. You never ever forget what happened, you never ever forget the pain, but you must use it almost like energy. Giving up is the easy thing to do.

"It will be emotionally hard, but my mum loved the Solheim. I'm so pleased to be back, I'm buzzing."

And no one would be more proud of her return than Joy Reid.

Matt Cooper is a golf writer from the United Kingdom who has worked for SkySports.com, Golf365.com and SportingLife.com, among others. He edits CuriousAboutGolf.com and is a columnist for a number of print magazines.