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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Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

The swing loaded with speed.

The on-course charisma.

The big shot in the big moment.

The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

And did he?

“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.