Mallon named captain of 2013 Solheim team

Meg Mallon announced her retirement from the LPGA in July.

Meg Mallon announced her retirement from the LPGA in July.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Everyone loves Meg Mallon. That smile. Those freckles. The Irish temper. As Stacy Lewis said, she’s the “ultimate team competitor,” and many a player has listed Mallon as a mentor on the LPGA tour, a friendly face who offers sound advice.

Now she’ll get the chance to lead her own team at her beloved Solheim Cup. Players are in for a treat.

Mallon, 48, will captain Team USA at the 2013 Solheim Cup on Aug. 16-18 at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo. The announcement came Jan. 26 at the PGA Merchandise Show here. Mallon, an 18-time winner on the LPGA, has a 13-9-7 Solheim record in eight appearances. She served as an assistant captain to Beth Daniel at the 2009 Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms and captained a victorious Junior Solheim Cup team in 2011. Mallon is second on the all-time points list, behind Juli Inkster.

Mallon’s ties to the Solheim family, creators of the Ping equipment brand, are strong. She grew close to them while living in Arizona, and built her career on a long line of Ping putters. John Solheim, Ping's chairman and chief executive and son of the company's late founder, Karsten Solheim, said some of the best publicity that Ping ever received came from Mallon in 1995. She was playing at an LPGA event in Orlando and found herself seven strokes behind the leader coming up the last hole. She’d had seven three-putts that week and told her caddie walking up the 18th that she wanted to get rid of her Anser. Mallon didn’t want the gallery to think she was mad, so she turned and addressed them: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve had seven three-putts this week . . .” And then helicoptered her putter into a pond.

The crowd loved it. Mallon walked into the Lake Buena Vista clubhouse where all the players were watching the newly-formed Golf Channel on TV. Several of them held up signs grading her performance. Golf Channel announcers broke down her helicopter swing in slow motion. They used the clip as a tease the next season.

“When we went to visit the White House, I asked President Clinton for a presidential pardon,” Mallon said. “He’d seen it too and said there was nothing wrong with a little Irish temper.”

Colorado Golf Club also holds a special place for Mallon. Her longtime coach, Mike McGetrick, is a founder and managing partner.

“I knew the place before there was a hole put in the ground,” Mallon said. “Mike and I would stand on the range, and he’d be like, ‘You see that property over there? That’s what I want to build a golf course on.’ ”

Mallon called her experience at the Junior Solheim in Ireland last fall one of the most rewarding ventures of her life. John Solheim joked that he was glad he didn’t have to talk Mallon into captaining this time around. The first time he called in 2010 about the Junior Solheim captaincy, Mallon turned him down. She wanted to make the big-girl team one last time.

Two weeks later, she decided to retire. She immediately returned John Solheim’s call.

“It’s funny, every athlete I’ve talked to says they know when it’s time,” said Mallon, who realized it on a green in Rochester, N.Y. “It was such a clear moment, and I knew it.”

Mallon has plenty of time to put together a playlist of her favorite rap songs to pump up the U.S. squad. She’ll be a motivating and calming presence inside the ropes and media-friendly outside. Bottom line: She’ll be fun.

No U.S. team has ever lost the Solheim Cup on home soil. And after last year’s heartbreaking finish, this team will be hungry for revenge. It's hard to find a classier player to lead the charge.

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