There is something appropriate that in this time of challenge Mel Reid finally picked up her first LPGA Tour victory. And in a year all about delayed gratification, there is something appropriate in how she went about winning the ShopRite Classic presented by Acer, winking at adversity when it looked her in the eye.
With the memory of a final-round 74 when she started Sunday with the lead at the Cambia Portland Classic just two weeks ago still fresh in her mind, Reid once again squandered an advantage. But this time she fought back, closing with a 67 on the Bay Course at Seaview to finish 19-under-par 265, two strokes ahead of Jennifer Kupcho.
“I'm so emotional,” Reid said after being doused by champagne in a wild 18th green celebration by a large gathering of players and caddies for a very popular champion.
“I just want to call my dad to be honest,” she said, noting that her father was most likely watching on TV at the Black Swan pub back in England.
“After Portland, I wanted to redeem myself and just felt like I handled things a lot better today,” she said. “Just a huge respect and thank you to Dez, my caddie. He really pulled me through today.”
Reid began the day with a one-stroke advantage over Kupcho and Jennifer Song but fell out of the lead with bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7. But this time she regrouped and made four birdies in the next five holes.
“Great birdie on 8,” she said. “Made a great putt there. Obviously 9 was an easy birdie. And then 11 and 12 was kind of a steal. Probably the toughest hole on the golf course. And then just played pretty solid golf from there on in.”
The victory gets Reid into the U.S. Women’s Open in December but next up is the third LPGA major of the year – the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week at Aronimink outside Philadelphia, just a short drive from Atlantic City.
“It changes your life honestly,” she said about the ShopRite victory. “These are the best players in the world. The LPGA is in my opinion the best tour, the tour you want to be on if you want to be the best in the world. To win out here, people look at you a bit differently. I'm ecstatic and now looking forward to KPMG next week.”
Also making the drive to Aronimink feeling good about their game are Jennifer Song, who was third at 268 – three strokes back – Nasa Hataoka at 270 and Nelly Korda at 272. In a knot at 273 were Brooke Henderson, Ashleigh Buhai, Mina Harigae and Ryann O’Toole.
Reid, 33, was expected to be an instant success when she burst on the scene a dozen years ago. But despite six wins on the Ladies European Tour, there were many sleepless nights as family tragedy, professional frustrations and a personal voyage of self-discovery competed for her attention.
Expectation is a heavy load to lug around and Reid joined the pro ranks after being the 2004 and ’05 English Girls champ, competing in the 2006 Curtis Cup team for Great Britain & Ireland and finishing as low amateur at the 2007 AIG Women’s Open on The Old Course at St. Andrews.
Reid didn’t miss a beat, taking Rookie of the Year honors on the Ladies European Tour in 2008, winning her first LET event in 2010 and adding two more in 2011. Then the music changed and Reid lost the beat as life began handing out more than its fair share of adversity.
In May 2012, her mother, Joy, was killed in an automobile crash in Germany on her way to see Mel play. Even though Reid won in the Czech Republic a month later, the loss took its toll. In 2013 and ’14 she missed 11 cuts in 26 starts.
Reid won once in 2015 and added her sixth LET title in 2017, her first year with an LPGA Tour card. But her most important triumph was in December 2018 when she came out as gay and moved from England to Florida, realizing she could best help herself by helping others.
“The reason I did it was I feel like I’m on a platform where I can have some sort of influence and I have a voice,” Reid told LPGA.com last year.
“This is my way of giving back,” she said. “It’s a serious subject. People kill themselves over it. I just wanted to say, ‘Look, this is who I am. I’m very proud of who I am.’ It doesn’t make me a bad person just because of the gender of who I love.”
That personal move did not translate into immediate professional success. Last year, Reid missed 10 cuts in 21 LPGA Tour starts and she struggled in her first seven starts this season, cracking the top-40 only once.
Then something clicked. She was T-7 at the ANA Inspiration in September and then T-5 at Cambia the next week. Now, it looks as if she’s here to stay.
“When I had a two-footer to win I was just thinking about it a little bit,” she said about her Mom. “My blood was her blood. I know it sounds cheesy, but I'm part of her, so just really, really proud I managed to get it done.”
On Sunday at ShopRite, the platform on which Reid stands rose a lot higher. The KPMG could give it a major boost. Nearly half a lifetime later, Mel Reid has become an overnight success.