As will to win fades, Mallon, 47, retires

Meg Mallon at the 2008 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.

Meg Mallon at the 2008 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.

OAKMONT, Pa. – Meg Mallon’s withdrawal from this week’s U.S. Women’s Open is more permanent than it appears. Last week’s Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic was Mallon’s last LPGA event. Though she was as healthy as she has been in a long time and hitting the ball well, Mallon said she no longer had the desire to will the ball into the hole. The competitive fire had dimmed considerably.

Mallon made the decision at the LPGA Championship, where she paired with Angela Stanford and Karrie Webb during the first two rounds. 

“They were getting mad (over poor shots), and I was getting mad that I wasn’t getting mad,” said Mallon, who thought the Farr was a fitting bookend to her career, because it’s where she received her first LPGA start as an amateur. With her brothers, John and Paul, watching in Toledo, Mallon didn’t let them know until they were at dinner after her last round. 

“I didn’t want it to be a sad thing,” said Mallon, who doesn’t see herself competing in future majors as a “ceremonial golfer.”

photo

Meg Mallon celebrates after winning the 2004 U.S. Women's Open.

Mallon had an exemption into this year’s U.S. Women’s Open thanks to her victory in 2004. This will be the first Open that Mallon has missed since 1988. She was replaced in the field by Nicole Vandermade, 20, who will be a junior at the University of Texas.

Mallon, 47, was a rookie on tour in 1987. She amassed 18 career victories, including four majors, and ranks seventh in career earnings, with $9,044,059. She has played in 23 U.S. Women’s Opens, winning in 2004 (Orchards Golf Club) and 1991 (Colonial Country Club). She closed with a 6-under 65 to win at the Orchards, the lowest closing round in championship history. 

As the youngest of six, Mallon stayed close to her Irish Catholic roots, always putting loved ones above her career. When her sister, Tricia, was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in late 2005, Mallon rushed to her side. A few months later, Mallon’s father, John, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 82. Her mother, Marian, had a brain hemorrhage in 2001 that left her in need of constant care. 

After winning the Open in 2004 and finishing fourth on the money list, Mallon considered taking 2006 off. Tricia, however, persuaded her to play, and Mallon gave it a valiant effort. Six months into the season, she realized she wasn’t mentally stable enough to finish the season. She played only 12 events in ’06, falling to No. 117. 

“She basically gave up 1 1/2 years of golf to be with her family,” Juli Inkster said. “That’s what you have to admire about Meg. Family always comes first.”

For the rest of her career, Mallon never competed in more than 14 events in a season. She played only 10 times in ’09, spending most weeks with Tricia, who died March 1, 2010. 

“I played for the fun of having my family and friends along for the ride,” Mallon said. That changed considerably during the past five years.

Mallon was an eight-time Solheim Cup player who served as an assistant captain for Beth Daniel in 2009 and is expected to lead her own team sometime in the near future. Good friend Pat Hurst points to Mallon’s mental toughness as a reason she proved so successful at high-octane events such as the Open and Solheim Cup. Inkster also noted the number of points Mallon let get away in the spirit of the Solheim, once the Cup had been decided. For every ounce of competitive fire, Mallon was just as considerate.

“We’ll miss her,” Hurst said. “She was a great asset to this tour.”

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