Faith is the center of Ally McDonald’s life. Always has been. So, it came as no surprise when, minutes after capturing her first win at the Drive On Championship, she stepped to the microphone on the 18th green of the Great Waters Course at Reynold’s Lake Oconee and said, “I can’t stand up here without, first and foremost, telling you that Christ Jesus is amazing in how he was able to just calm me during these times. And He was no doubt with me, the third member of our team out on the golf course today in giving us this win.”
That brought another torrent of tears from McDonald’s mother, Angie, who held it together, not just this week but through all the ups and downs of Ally’s professional career, until the final putt fell. It was Angie who, in years past, had Ally’s blood-sugar monitor synced to her phone. Ally is a type-1 diabetic and requires constant monitoring. For years, if things got out of whack, Angie received an alert. She was also the one who got a call in the middle of the night – every parent’s nightmare - when Ally had a seizure half a world away in Malaysia and spent a week in the hospital with severe dehydration.
Angie and Ally’s dad, Jamie, have been by their daughter’s side through it all. They hoofed every step and bore every heartbreak. They celebrated when their daughter won the North and South Women’s Amateur and enjoyed the congratulatory hugs and handshakes when she won Mississippi State’s home event, the Old Waverly Bulldog Invitational. Ally was the pride of Fulton, having learned the game on a nine-hole golf course and became a college All-American. She even represented her country as an amateur in the 2014 Curtis Cup at St. Louis Country Club where Angie and Jamie walked every step and celebrated a U.S. victory.
They also hurt for their daughter when the wins everyone expected in the pros were slow to come. They had to find the right words in Scotland when Ally was on the verge of capturing the point needed for the U.S. Solheim Cup victory at Gleneagles until Bronte Law went on a putting tear that turned the tide.
They were also there to celebrate her friendships and her recent marriage to Charlie Ewing, a golf coach at Mississippi State.
But since she joined the LPGA Tour, they were never able to be celebrate her birthday. October 25 has always fallen in the middle of the Asia swing, so the McDonalds could only celebrate through video chats. That changed this year with the best present any of them could receive.
As evangelical Christians, they believe in miracles, big and small. That includes a few “God winks” along the way. The fact that the Drive On Championship – Reynolds Lake Oconee was added late as a replacement for the Asia events made it possible for Angie and Jamie to drive over from Fulton. Angie brought a cake that fit Ally’s dietary restrictions, which they shared with a group of believers on Friday at a fellowship meeting.
Ally held the lead that night after 36 holes, and the night after. This was the closest LPGA Tour event to her home, and she felt comfortable on the Great Waters Course from the get-go. But it did seem like divine provenance on Sunday, her actual birthday, when Ally needed only two putts from 10 feet on the final green to win.
“I just tried to enjoy my walk and appreciate the beauty of this golf course and the beauty of God's creation,” Ally said. “I was given some great advice (by Angela Stanford). She told me that God already knows the outcome so just go play.”
He also had a plan to shower His blessings on a faithful family.
“It means the world to me, obviously, that they're here” Ally said of her parents. “This is the closest golf tournament that we have, and commish just added it to our schedule with COVID happening and canceling some events. Having them here was just amazing. To be able to share with them and them being such huge supporters of me since I was young, taking me to golf tournaments, reminding me to do my drills, telling me that I need to act better on the golf course, all those things just all just coming around (in my mind). Them being here to savor this moment just means so much.”
They drove back to Mississippi together on Sunday night. Jamie had to be in Jackson early Monday morning. “Three, maybe four hours of sleep,” he said, not as a complaint. It was matter of fact. Dad stuff.
But Angie summed it up best, her COVID facemask in no way hiding the tears. “We are so blessed,” she said. “So blessed.”