Melissa Reid reveals how a heart-to-heart with her coach prevented her from quitting golf as she struggled in the aftermath of losing her mother
It was only four years ago that Melissa Reid appeared to have the world of ladies’ golf at her feet. With three Ladies European Tour titles to her name, she played in Europe’s Solheim Cup win at Killeen Castle in Ireland, so ending the USA’s bid for four successive victories in the biennial match.
Just a matter of months thereafter, tragedy struck. The Derby golfer was in Germany preparing to compete in the UniCredit Ladies’ Open when she received word that her parents, Brian and Joy, had been involved in a car crash. The vehicle they’d been travelling in to go and watch their daughter in action collided head-on with another car just outside Munich. Brian survived the accident, albeit with broken ribs. Joy, however, was taken to hospital, where she sadly died the next day from internal injuries.
Of course, Melissa withdrew from the tournament immediately, with those who played in it wearing black ribbons as a mark of respect and a symbol of support to the family.
Showing remarkable strength and resolve, Melissa won on her return to action the following month, claiming the Raiffeisenback Prague Golf Masters to rack up her fourth LET title. On the face of it, she was bouncing back. On the inside, however, her grief was still painfully raw.
The rest of 2012, as a result, proved something of a struggle. She played just three more times, missing the cut in the Evian Masters - an event that she later said had always been her mum’s favourite - and managing just eight holes of the Ladies’ Irish Open, before withdrawing from the season-ending Dubai Ladies’ Masters with an injury.
The following season wasn’t much better. She played 12 events but posted just two top tens and, as her struggles continued to plague her last year, Melissa found herself on the brink of turning her back on the game altogether.
“I definitely thought about quitting,” she recalls as she relaxes in the luxurious surroundings of the Turnberry Hotel. She’ll be going back there later this summer to contest the RICOH Women’s British Open after several heart-to-heart conversations with her coach, Kevin Craggs, convinced her that throwing in the towel was not an option.
“We spoke about it three or four times last year,” she adds. “Golf’s just not that much fun when you’re not playing well. When you’re in that kind of a rut, you get so much influence from other people, so you can get very lost very quickly if you’re not careful and, at that point in my life, I wasn’t really strong enough to not listen to what other people were saying to me.
“I stopped trusting my instincts but Kevin has helped to get me back on track, in that respect. He’s reminded me that my instincts are my instincts and, the majority of the time, they’re right. I’d say I’m back on the right path now.”
Reid was introduced to Craggs by her good friend and former Curtis Cup team-mate Breanne Loucks but she says he is much more than a guy who tells her what she’s doing right and wrong. She refers to him as her ‘mentor’ and says he has helped fill a void left by her mum.
“He’s changed the way that I think about things,” she says. “He’s pushed me beyond limits. He’s got a lot of life experience, so that’s probably why he relates so well to me. I’d say I’m quite different to most other golfers. I need to be managed because I will step over the line sometimes and need reined back in. For example, if I’m left to my own devices, I’ll hit balls all day, every day, which isn’t good. I need people to talk to me without sitting me down and talking to me, if that makes sense?
“That’s where Kevin comes into his own. I need a figure like that in my life because that person had always been my mum. She’d always guide me, advise me and help me, so somebody had to take that role and I’m so glad he did.”
One of the first things they set about working on was restoring the confidence that had underpinned Reid’s meteoric rise to the top.
“It’s hard to go into tournaments and not be competing, especially when I’d been contending the majority of the weeks that I’d play,” she adds. “Every player goes through struggles. Mine have lasted probably a little longer than I’d have wanted them to but I certainly feel as though I’m coming out of it and I’m enjoying my golf again, which is the main thing. But it’s just sport, isn’t it? I feel like, now that I’ve figured that out, I’ve got a much better balance in my life.”
Perhaps wisely, Melissa refuses to give much away when pushed on her goals for this season. “I’m not going to say what they are but I’m confident we can meet them,” she says.
Presumably, though, making the European side for this September’s Solheim Cup will be high on her agenda. Having been involved in the 15-13 win in 2011, she admits it was difficult to miss out on the successful trophy defence two years later.
“I was absolutely gutted,” concedes Melissa. “I actually went away on holiday with my friends to escape from it at the time it was on but still found myself watching bits of it. It was hard not to because I love watching live sport but, yeah, it was still tough.
“The thing about the Solheim Cup, it’s not easy to get in that team. It’s a big ask but I know what it takes and I feel like, technically, I’m better now than ever and, mentally, I’m getting stronger. It’s now just about building my confidence and getting some momentum going. If I can do that, hopefully the Solheim Cup will take care of itself.
“The most important thing is that, from a personal point of view, I feel so much more together and happier.”