Ladies European Tour star and new Today's Golfer columnist Meghan MacLaren reveals she has learnt a lot about herself during the Coronavirus lockdowns.
When the pandemic hit properly and my purpose got taken away from me, I felt a little lost.
Lockdown made me realise how much I need competitive golf for my overall happiness.
There was a moment during lockdown where I suddenly realised I might be the only golfer to come out of it being sick of golf. That, I thought, probably wasn’t OK.
I couldn’t help myself. Golf is, and probably has been since midway through my college career, an addiction for me. Like a lot of people, when the pandemic hit properly and my purpose got taken away from me, I felt a little lost.
There were times when I was fine. I could get out of bed and exercise, knowing the one inarguable facet of improvement to be found in my golf game was increased strength and fitness. I could go for walks and listen to podcasts that helped clear my head and give me a connection to the rest of the golfing community. I could watch the news with a mixture of helplessness and anticipation, feeling grateful that the only request made of me in this world was to simply stay at home.
But there were times when I felt every dimension of the spinning. As a professional golfer, my instincts tend towards improvement, analysis, reflection and hard work, amongst others. Lockdown put up walls to all of those – although I tried my hardest to exhaust myself anyway; through hours of stats and swing analysis in a cramped garden. But my subconscious knew that my heart wasn’t always in it. I thought I was addicted to the process that golf provides… but without tournament golf, the process seems directionless.
Take tournaments away and a professional golfer has no proving ground for any of the work. No timeline, no end game, no nervy moments of clarity where the pieces fit right where they’re meant to in the jigsaw that was always a little blurry.
Thankfully for every female professional golfer in the UK, tournament golf returned in a surprisingly sudden, forceful and exhilarating manner. The simple concept borne from one of my fellow LET players, Liz Young, and the head pro at her club (who also happens to be a world-class club fitter), Jason McNiven, was of a UK female roll-up where we all put some money up and play for it. From that media attention came the Roses – former World No.1 Justin, and his brilliant wife, Kate – who were willing to put up some money to turn this little idea into a series of events to prepare us for the eventual return of the LET and LPGA Tour.
Not only do we now have playing opportunities, the entire conversation has the potential to be game changing for female golf in the UK. Companies such as American Golf and Computacenter have come on board, with coverage on Sky Sports, too. Take a generous gesture from one of the most well-known names in professional golf, and combine it with an acknowledgment of respect and a platform for his female counterparts, and there’s a reason every one of us took to social media when this was all first announced. We’ve always been here, working and grinding away. For what feels like the first time in a long time, people are willing to see us.
As I write this, we’ve already ticked off Royal St. George’s, the site of this year’s now postponed Open Championship, during the series, with some more spectacular venues lined up in the next few weeks. And to think I was jealous when the European Tour announced the ‘UK Swing’ for its members later this summer.
There’s only been one attitude prevailing from the moment this series kicked off: Gratitude.
I’ve seen it on every putting green and every driving range before we tee off on a Thursday, and every Instagram post on a Friday morning. I’m clearly not alone in realising my need for competitive, tournament golf was greater than I thought. Not just for improvement and benchmarks, definitely not just for the chance to earn money again. I needed it for my sanity, my mental equilibrium. I needed it to remind me how much I love what I get to do for a living. I have found my passion again.
Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the world, and I’m grateful I haven’t had to feel it anywhere near as much as some people. Precautions are being taken with every one of these events. The money isn’t there for testing, but we’ve had temperature checks when we arrive on site and no spectators have been allowed. Caddies are only permitted if they are from the same household as the player, and volunteers are assigned to every group for raking the bunkers and taking the flags out. And trust me when I say we are sticking to those rules… we’re not letting someone take our drug away again if we can help it.
Golf is funny in its fickleness – or maybe that’s just us, as golfers. One week I win and have one of those rounds where it feels like nothing can get in my way. Birdies, eagles, six under through 10 holes and five shots clear of the next player. I did manage to receive a two-shot penalty for hitting the wrong ball (let’s move on, quickly), but I held on to win the second event at Moor Park, and suddenly the world was only spinning in the way it’s meant to. Fast forward a couple of weeks and a few bogeys, a few bad swings and a few lip outs made me start questioning everything again. But I remain more motivated than ever to get back to the process of improvement. Equilibrium hey, it’s a delicate balance.
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