KINGSBARNS, Scotland – The Ladies European Tour is in dire need of a boost. Mel Reid winning the $3.25 million Ricoh Women’s British Open would do just that.
It would also spark a huge party.
Reid hasn’t quite ordered the champagne yet, but an opening 5-under 67 has given her a chance to dream. The 29-year-old, one of the early starters at Kingsbarns, was three shots off Michelle Wie’s lead when she signed her card.
No English player has won the Women’s British Open since Karen Stupples in 2004 at Sunningdale. Penny Grice-Whittaker in 1991 at Woburn Golf Club was the previous English winner. Except you won’t find the latter’s name among the list of major champions. The British only became a major in 2001 when Se Ri Pak won at Royal Birkdale.
Two English winners in 26 years is a poor show, which is why Reid would light up the nearby Auld Grey Toon of St. Andrews if she hoists the trophy on Sunday night.
“What would it mean to me?” Reid said about the prospects of winning her first major. “It would mean having a massive party. I’m pretty good at that. To win here it here would be extra special just because it’s one of my favourite place to play. I love links golf. The British Open is always the highlight of my year.”
Crowds on the opening day were quite sparse, but Reid had plenty of support.
“There’s a lot of my family here, and that’s why it would be a big party on Sunday night,” Reid said. “It’s important for me to try to play well in front of them, seeing as they don’t see me very often. I always put on a little bit of a performance for them to show off to them a little bit.”
Reid played the front nine in 4-under 32, with a birdie at the fourth followed by four consecutive birdies, on Nos. 7-10. She had a chance to get closer to Wie – or even tie her at the top of the leaderboard – but dropped shots at the par-3 14th and par-4 16th holes offset birdies at Nos. 15 and 17. She also had a birdie chance at the 18th but missed a 12-foot birdie putt.
“I definitely left a few out there for sure,” Reid said. “Hopefully I’m saving them for the next three days.”
Reid’s best finish in this championship is a T-9 at Turnberry two years ago. That was when she was a full-time Ladies European Tour player. She’s since joined the LPGA. That was out of necessity.
The LET has been struggling this season, losing five events on the schedule so far. Although the six-time LET winner has essentially turned her back on her home circuit, a Reid win – or any European win for that matter – would be dearly welcomed at LET headquarters.
Reid feels her decision to jump across the Atlantic has paid dividends, even if she doesn’t go on to win.
“The golf courses are in amazing condition,” Reid said. ‘You really do feel like an athlete out there. It makes you want to work hard as well, because if you’re not on your game your weaknesses get shown up very, very quickly. It’s kind of gave me a new drive for practicing, for playing.
“The strength and depth of the girls out there is very, very strong, which is amazing to be around because it helps you get better.”
We’ll find out how much better over the next three days.