Undying Love

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2010, 11:11 pm

Meg Mallon didn’t come to golf in the usual way.

She was wonderfully bamboozled.

She’ll forever thank her sister, Tricia, for that.

Mallon’s family will laugh telling you the story, and they’ll weep, too.

Meg’s start in golf is back on the minds of the people who care most about her with the LPGA making its first American start this week at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif. After much heartache and suffering the last few seasons, Meg, 46, begins anew in a bid to write a more satisfying final chapter to her career.

Tricia died a year ago of a rare form of abdominal cancer, a month before the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but she remains an inspiration to her sister. Mallon spent the last 100 days of her sister’s life at her side, the final 54 watching her sister starve to death under Hospice care. It’s the Dickensian chapter of Mallon’s life, her best of times and worst of times. She reveled and ached in their special time together

Meg Mallon
Meg Mallon watches her third shot on the ninth hole during the first round of the Canadian Women's Open (Getty Images)

“I played golf because Tricia played golf,” Mallon said.

That’s the wondrous joke they shared.

Meg was the baby in the Irish-American family of six children in suburban Detroit, Tricia the fifth child, five years Meg’s senior.

“We were really, really close,” Mallon said. “I wanted to do everything my sister did.”

When Tricia became a swimmer, Meg wasn’t long in taking up the sport. And when Meg’s mother dropped Tricia off to play golf at the Lakelands Golf & Country Club near their Birmingham, Mich., home, Meg wanted to tag along and play.

“What I didn’t know then is that Tricia hated golf,” Meg said. “She would go off with the older girls, and they would hide their clubs and go down and swim in the lake while I was playing golf with the other kids.”

Mallon picked up the game because of her sister, and she all but gave it up for her sister, too.

Though Mallon has won 18 times in her career, with two U.S. Women’s Opens among her four major championship titles, the last five seasons have been a struggle. A steady slide gave way with eight missed cuts in 10 starts last season. Mallon won three times in 2004, but she has one top-10 finish since ‘05.

The decline can be traced to a series of emotional blows:

  • In September of ’05, Mallon was stricken with a heart problem in the aftermath of the American Solheim Cup victory. She was diagnosed with SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) and underwent corrective surgery.
  • In October of ’05, Tricia was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma in the abdomen, an aggressive cancer for which there is no cure.
  • In December of ’05, Meg’s father, John, died of a massive heart attack. He was retired after a long career with the Ford Motor Co. His death left the Mallon siblings scrambling to figure out how to take care of their mother, Marian, who needed constant care after suffering a debilitating brain hemorrhage in ‘01.

With Tricia dying, Meg moved into the family’s home in Doylestown, Pa., late in 2008. She spent the final three months of her sister’s life helping the struggling family cope. Meg spent countless other days and weeks all the way back to the end of ’05 helping the family when needed.

“Meg basically gave up her golf life after Tricia was diagnosed,” said Paul Mallon, one of Meg’s two brothers. “But when we would ask Meg about it, she would say she didn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Tricia, and her husband, Ed Burdzy, have three children. Alex is 21 today, Madeleine 15 and Nick 13.

Meg nursed her sister, but she also helped with the children. She did everything from drive car pools to school, games and practices to cooking and grocery shopping.

Over the last four years, Mallon faced her own physical challenges. She endured back, foot, elbow and shoulder injuries.

“I have to believe all the stress was a factor, that it took its toll on Meg,” Paul said. “Tricia and Meg were extraordinarily close, so much so that they would finish each other’s sentences.”

Mallon is playing on a medical extension this season.

After falling to 131st on the money list last year, she lost her priority status. The medical extension, however, wasn’t granted for Mallon’s numerous injuries. It was granted under the LPGA’s family medical issues provision. That was based on the fact that Mallon spent so much of her time caring for her dying sister.

“Tricia was the center of joy and laughter in our family,” Meg said. “She was funny, bright, such a quick wit. I loved being around her. If something good happened to me, she’s the first person I wanted to tell. If something bad happened, she’s the person I wanted to talk to.

“I still shake my head knowing she’s gone. There’s such a huge void.”

Mallon suffered watching her sister fight a cancer that wouldn’t be beaten. Almost two years after Tricia's diagnosis, the family was dealt another blow when Tricia’s husband lost his job in the banking crunch.

With their health insurance lost, the Burdzy family was forced to go onto Cobra Insurance, which didn’t cover all the medical costs. That’s where Meg’s friends stepped in. Beth Daniel, Karrie Webb, Nancy Lopez and Helen Alfredsson were among 20 LPGA pros who staged a fundraiser at Mallon’s home club at Pine Tree in South Florida. They raised $170,000 for the family.

“My fellow players were unbelievable with their support,” Mallon said. “They made phone calls and sent texts that always seemed to come at just the right time.”

Hall of Famer Juli Inkster called Mallon 30 consecutive days in the worst of times.

“A lot of people don’t know what Meg did for her sister, or what a really tough time it was for her family,” Inkster said. “It was amazing how Meg never complained.

“Meg put her career on hold, and I don’t think there are too many people who would have done what she has done. She really has her priorities in order, and I have tremendous respect for her.”

Mallon said her sister’s memory still inspires her. Tricia endured four years of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries with so little complaint. Mallon marveled how Tricia would get up to make breakfast for the children and send them off to school almost until the day she died.

The end, though, was difficult for everyone.

Tricia could no longer eat solid foods by the end of ’08 and was placed on a nutrition tube. Soon after, doctors presented the family a stark option.

“The choice was to let the cancer take her, or less painfully, to let her starve to death,” Mallon said.

Tricia went off the nutrition tube on Jan. 4 of last year. Meg was there through the bitter end.

“It’s amazing how long you can go without food,” Mallon said. 'And Tricia continued to perform her role as mom. She was starving to death, but she kept getting up to make the children breakfast and send them off to school. She kept checking their homework.'

Fifty-four days after the nutrition tube was removed, Tricia died.

“Meg went so far beyond what anyone ever dreamed of doing, but I think it took Meg quite awhile to emotionally recover,” Paul said. “As a family, we were worried about Meg, but she was able to share her feelings with us. Doing that, we knew she would be OK.”

Mallon is eager to return to golf to see if she can end her career with one last good run. She says she’s feeling healthy, physically and emotionally. She did not play in the first two LPGA events of the year overseas, but will be at the Kia Classic this week at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I feel a certain peace this week,” Mallon said.

It’s a feeling she welcomes after such a long, tough spell on and off the golf course.

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”