Meghan MacLaren had a superb amateur career and is now a winner on the Ladies European Tour. Here, the 24-year-old from Wellingborough Golf Club, took time out from her preparation for the Ricoh Women’s British Open to talk about making her way as a golfer and why working hard shouldn’t feel like work!
How did you get started in golf?
I was so young I don’t really remember – golf seems to be in my blood on every side of the family, so I think it was inevitable!
Earliest golfing memories?
I can’t remember the first competition exactly, but I remember playing a junior club match when I must have been really young, and the guy I was playing against was more than double my age!! I remember my first county match too (I played for Buckinghamshire to start with), and the team shirts and jumpers coming down to my knees!
How quickly did you progress?
It was always quite slow and steady for me I think, rather than rocketing up quickly like some of the other girls I ended up playing with in national sides. My handicap probably came down pretty quickly, but it was a gradual move through the England regional squads.
What support did you have?
My parents are both good golfers and work in golf too, so I think it helps that they understand the demands of the sport. I’ve seen the detrimental effects of parents’ over-involvement in sport so I count myself extremely lucky to have parents who know how to support me in the best possible way.
I was a part of my county set up from a pretty young age, and then moved up into the England regional squads through to the national squad. That pathway definitely encouraged me into working harder, and practicing and competing in more productive ways. Being a part of the England set up also gave me opportunities to play at the highest level. Travelling internationally and having the adrenaline rush of playing alongside the best players at that level undoubtedly helped prepare me for the professional realm.
You won eight times on the US college circuit. How did the university experience help you?
I learned so much about myself as a person and golfer through playing US college golf. Getting into a different set of tournaments and people helped open my eyes to how much depth there is out there – there’s an infinite number of girls who all have the same dream as you – so you have to be willing to do the things others don’t do. It changed my mindset too – after I’d had a couple of wins I started approaching tournaments differently – I knew I could win and I went in trying to do exactly that. As I said earlier this year following my LET win, there’s a difference between believing you can win and actually doing it. Having that concrete evidence gives you an edge as a competitor.
Best amateur moment?
I can’t pick between winning the European Team Championships with England, and winning the Curtis Cup with GB&I. Both were in the summer of 2016, right before I turned professional, and they were incredibly special!
What made you decide to make a career out of golf?
The idea of playing professionally was never too far from my mind as I grew up and got better and better. I think as I became a part of the England national squad and got to compete in some of the European and world events, along with my success in college golf, I began to realise I could be capable of making it my career. Through all the highs and the lows I never wavered in how much I loved the game – it’s always been like a drug for me. Having the opportunity to do it for a living is incredible.
How did you find the transition from amateur to pro ranks?
It’s been both easier and harder than I thought it would be. I struggled with the decision of turning professional because I wasn’t sure I was ready – but in reality I don’t think anyone can ever be ready. I missed out on getting any status in America and I didn’t get full status on the LET, but that actually benefited my game more than anything else. I was able to plan my first year around playing on the LET Access Series, and I was 100% committed to that, and to trying to improve every single day.
By having that mindset I was able to realise I was still playing the same game as I was as an amateur. I think a lot of top amateur golfers approach the game in a professional manner – but some people think they need to change everything when they turn pro. In reality, what they have been doing to that point has made them a golfer capable of competing at the highest level.
Winning the NSW Open in Australia on the LET earlier this year. I had won on the LET Access Tour, and had some good finishes on the LET, but it’s one of those things that you want so much it’s almost surreal when it actually happens. I’d been struggling a little coming into that event too, so it taught me a lot in terms of patience and trust in my own ability. I think it gave me some perspective too – as much as I wanted to win every tournament, actually doing it made me realise how few people get to achieve something like that in their careers.
To be the best player in the world.
Top tip for girls with ambitions to follow you?
I think one of the most important things is to have people around you that you trust. Trusting them to help you improve your game, in whatever way that might be, but also trusting them to be there and to have the same commitment when things aren’t going well. You have to be prepared to work hard too. But the way I see it is if you truly want to get to the highest level as a golfer, working hard shouldn’t feel like work.
Interests outside golf ….Newcastle United! Anything else?
Travelling so much means that I enjoy the little things a lot more than I used to – just being at home and getting to spend time with the people I care about. I like learning as well, and since I left college I’ve made more of a conscious effort to do that myself, whether that’s through reading, listening to podcasts, or writing things down to try and make sense of them. (megmaclaren.com if you’re even a tiny bit interested!). Golf can be pretty consuming, but I’m lucky that it’s one of the reasons I love it so much.
• Inspired to Get into Golf and follow Meghan’s example? Visit www.getintogolf.org to find out about free and low cost beginner activities across the country.
Caption: Meghan MacLaren, winning in Australia (credit LET/Tristan Jones)