Solheim Cup: Ally McDonald goes long way to make impact at Gleneagles

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Solheim Cup: Ally McDonald goes long way to make impact at Gleneagles

Solheim Cup

Solheim Cup: Ally McDonald goes long way to make impact at Gleneagles

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GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Ally McDonald grew up on a nine-hole course in small-town Mississippi that tips out at 5,700 yards for two loops. She’s proof that talent and sheer will can take a person just about anywhere, including a brute of a course amidst the lush green hills of Gleneagles where she and Angel Yin posted a record-equaling 7-and-5 fourball victory in her Solheim Cup debut Friday.

McDonald, 26, joined the U.S. team after Stacy Lewis withdrew with a back injury earlier in the week. In a way, McDonald and Lewis are cut from the same mold. Both were record-setting collegiate players who put their programs on the maps. Lewis at Arkansas and McDonald at Mississippi State. Both put team and loyalty before personal pursuit. Both wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Ally McDonald has become a ‘torchbearer’ for golf in the Magnolia State. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that McDonald played with the poise of a veteran as a Solheim Cup rookie.

“She’s tough now,” said Jim Gallagher, Jr., a Golf Channel analyst whose daughter, Mary Langdon, played alongside McDonald in college. “She’s not scared of the moment.”

Gallagher noted that in a state that has more deer than people, McDonald has given them something else to talk about other than football, thanks to her golfing success.

“It’s tough being the torch-bearer,” said Gallagher, “but she’ll live up to it.”

Like fellow Solheim rookie Brittany Altomare, McDonald grew up playing alongside and against the boys. McDonald became the first girl to win the Mississippi boys title on a course that played 7,000 yards.

MORE: Photos | Scores | List of winners

Korn Ferry Tour player Chad Ramey’s father ran Fulton Country Club. With no practice range to camp on, Chad and McDonald designed their own makeshift range across the fairways, aiming at the trees and shagging their own balls.

Gallagher said it was McDonald’s drive to be great that separated her from other young players growing up.

How tough is she? Well, McDonald once asked her mom if she could be the quarterback of the middle-school football team.

Mom said “no.”

Now in her third full season on the LPGA, McDonald had four strong finishes at the majors this season, finishing T-6/T-10/T-11/T-21. She finished ninth in Solheim Cup points, narrowly missing out on automatically qualifying.

Inkster said it was toughest telling McDonald that she wasn’t getting a pick because she felt like McDonald deserved to be on the team. When Inkster asked if she’d be willing to go as an alternate, McDonald didn’t hesitate in saying yes.

“And then when Stacy called me and said she’s having a little back issue, I called Ally and there’s this wind,” said Inkster. “I go ‘Are you out hitting balls?’ She goes, ‘yeah.’ So when I said, ‘We need you, we need you to come here on Sunday,’ she says ‘I’ll be there.’

“And just the way the whole thing, the way she prepared . . . the way the whole team just embraces her and the way she embraced her role, she just slid right in.”

McDonald’s hometown of Fulton, Miss., has a population of around 4,000 people. Her father Jamie, earned a degree in civil engineering from Mississippi State while her mother, Angie, studied medical technology at Ole Miss.

The McDonald clan, which includes brother Andrew and her grandmother, arrived in Scotland on Friday morning in time to see Ally quickly put her name in the Solheim record books. Her boyfriend, Charlie, arrives on Saturday.

McDonald said she didn’t start dreaming about competing in the Solheim Cup until she made the Curtis Cup team in college.

“We had like a perspective board,” said McDonald, “and I had a Solheim Cup logo up on it to eventually make it.”

The folks in Fulton might want to set their alarms early this weekend.

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