As journalists, we're not supposed to root for one player over another. But we're also human, so we often do. We just keep it to ourselves.
I have always rooted for Meg Mallon, and so when the news broke in October that she had been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, I couldn't have been happier. It couldn't have happened to a nicer person - because there is no nicer person than Meg Mallon.
Meg's upbeat, friendly personality is one of two reasons I root for Meg. The other is a geographical accident. We both come from the suburbs of Boston. Oh, Meg identifies more with being from Michigan, where she grew up after her family moved there when she wasn't even a year old. But she still has family in the Bay State, many of whom were on hand in 2004 when she won her second U.S. Women's Open at the Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass.
Both of us were long gone from New England when I first met Mallon sometime around 2000 at Delray Beach (Fla.) Golf Club, where she and Beth Daniel were participating in the annual Beth Daniel and Friends Golf Clinic. Mallon and Daniel were longtime residents of south Florida, and I covered local golf for the Palm Beach Post. Daniel had a New England connection, too. She was a friend of former Red Sox star Jim Rice - they had the same agent.
Although Mallon grew up in Michigan, when it came time to pick a college she chose THE Ohio State University, which for her is a source of great pride and for me is the source of my favorite Meg Mallon story.
I was covering an LPGA tournament at Reunion Resort west of Orlando. My previous assignment had been an auto race, and I was wearing a hat with Chevrolet's bow-tie logo that had been given to me by a friend who was the public relations representative for one of the Chevy teams. I saw Mallon on the range, but as she approached me, her ever-present smile faded. It was as close to frowing as I've ever seen with her. "What's with the hat?" she said. For a few seconds I was tongue-tied, as I didn't know what she was getting at. Suddenly it came to me: Mallon's father had worked for years as an executive at the Ford Motor Company. As I fumbled to try to explain I hadn't meant the hat as a slight, her smile reappeared, this time with an impish tinge, and she assured me she was just messing with me.
That night, I went looking for a Ford hat. Couldn't find one, but I did find the next best thing: an Ohio State hat. When I got to Reunion the next morning, Meg was already on the course. As I walked out to catch her group, the hat started attracting comments from people passing by: "Hey, Ohio State." "Go Buckeyes." A player I didnt recognize walked past me, her caddie in tow. Looking at my hat, he said, "Now there is a true Buckeye." I smiled back at him, grimacing internally.
I caught up with Mallon after her round. She thought the hat story was hilarious. "Keep wearing it," she said.
Alas, I've long since lost track of that Ohio State hat. But if I'm fortunate enough to be in New York next September for the WGHOF induction ceremony, I'll be wearing another one just like it.