Mel Reid soaked up the LPGA’s 166-day hiatus from competition as the break she could never take. She slept in her own bed. Played endless money games at the Floridian, many of them with four-time major winner Brooks Koepka.
“I get on with him a lot,” she said. “I have a very similar attitude in a lot of ways. I enjoy being around him because, excuse my French, there’s no bull****. He’s competitive and he’s refreshing to be around.”
And yes, she took money off him from time to time.
“I was quite shocked at myself,” she said.
Reid, 33, built a two-stroke lead on her birthday at the Cambia Portland Classic and ultimately finished two strokes out of a playoff, won by countrywoman Georgia Hall. It was a win or learn situation, Reid said, and she did a lot of the latter that day. She also finished tied for seventh at the ANA Inspiration.
Few players on the LPGA have battled like Reid over the years. The strong Englishwoman roars to life in the thick of things and speaks plainly about tough issues and a broken heart. It’s easy to gravitate toward Reid, and she’d be an instant star should she one day find herself hoisting the game’s biggest trophies.
She’s that kind of force.
Take for example four years ago, when Reid singlehandedly took a pair of top-50 players from Japan to the 18th green at the UL International Crown after partner Charley Hull bowed out with a fever. Reid ultimately lost, but it was a team match-play moment for the ages. She was 6 under for the round.
View this post on Instagram
To all the mums in this world no matter the story. This is for the new mums, step mums, yearning mums, soon to be mums, to the single mums, the foster mums, grieving mums, mums who have lost children, children who have lost mums and everything in-between. Everyday feels like a Mother’s Day for me. I’m damn proud this one was mine
Four years before that, Reid lost her mother, Joy, in a car accident in Munich. Mel was there to compete in the UniCredit Ladies German Open. She’d go on to win in Prague one month later.
Yet the healing process was anything but a straight line. Reid, a six-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, nearly quit the game twice and only recently said she’s starting to come to grips with so many struggles from the neck up that have held her back.
One week before she left for Royal Troon in August, Reid spoke with sports psychologist Howard Falco for the first time. She immediately felt comfortable with Falco, and opened up deep-rooted wounds she’d been reluctant to address.
Understanding her self-worth was at the heart of it.
“I think that has been a big issue for me,” she said, “whether I deserve stuff.”
So many events that have built up over time, Reid says, come pouring out now with Falco. They talk before and after every round. She needs someone to push her like that. Those who are close can already tell a difference in her mannerisms and state of mind.
“I just think it has added up over the years,” she said, “and it’s just created this wall that I have against myself that he’s trying to break down.”
A three-time Solheim Cup participant, Reid just missed out on the 2019 team but was selected as one of Catriona Matthew’s vice captains.
“She was a fantastic vice captain and really, really helped the team,” said Matthew, who is once again the captain in 2021. “But I know just from speaking to her that she’d much rather be playing. It was great to see her up there in Portland and competing for a title.”
Reid, one of the fittest players on tour, became a rookie on the LPGA in 2017, her journey to the tour delayed further by two Q-School head-scratchers. In 2011, she hoped to qualify for the LPGA in the fall but because the second stage of Q-School backed up against the Solheim Cup, she couldn’t make it work. Despite being a member of the Solheim team and ranked inside the top 40 in the world, she couldn’t get an exemption into the final stage.
In 2015, Reid’s management team failed to meet the Q-School application deadline. Small schedules on the Ladies European Tour made it difficult to find a rhythm in the interim.
After a shaky start as an LPGA member, a tie for third at last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA at Hazeltine earned a $225,038 paycheck that boosted her to 61st on the LPGA money list, securing her status for 2020 and now 2021.
“She’s a very aggressive golfer,” said Laura Davies. “I love the way that she plays. She gets on with it.”
Currently 40th on this year’s money list and ranked 75th in the world, Reid would love to move into the top 50 in the world and claim her first LPGA title in 2020. That would put her in great position not only for the Solheim Cup, but would even put the Olympics into focus. That has long been a goal for Reid, though she used to think it would be for soccer or snowboarding.
Two years ago Reid moved to south Florida to give herself the best chance at success on the LPGA. She plays quite a bit of golf with fellow tour pro Marina Alex and counts LPGA Hall of Famer Karrie Webb as a mentor. She likes to pick Koepka’s brain too, but mostly just enjoys his company.
“Mentally, he’s strongest guy I’ve never met,” she said, “the way that he approaches things.”
It’s freeing too, teeing it up with the men.
“Sometimes as women, I feel like we can’t really hit a bad shot,” said Reid, “whereas the guys don’t really care as much. They see it as an opportunity.”
Most days, she goes home richer for it.