Third Place at US Women’s Open Quite a Story
It’s not as if Michelle Wie’s victory wasn’t spectacular enough. Her victory train has arrived, and she has embarked upon the second and more sensational phase of her career. When she finally got off the 18th green, there was some sense of “Whew! I guess I don’t have to worry about Michelle Wie anymore.”
In the same vein, second place finisher Stacy Lewis played as exciting a round of golf as we could have possible hoped for, and I was getting a strong hunch that she was going to blast through Wie’s precarious, usually steady round like a freight train. For Lewis, birdie was the new par, and save a couple of tournament-costing slip-ups, she was playing about as well as anyone ever could.
No, the two women who took the top two spots did their bit in grand style, but what happened in third place was, by all rules of logic, a mind-bender. I apologize for never having heard of Stephanie Meadow. Clearly, that was my problem, not hers. A native of Jordanstown, North Ireland who moved to the American South at the age of fourteen, she walked into the Women’s US Open picture as if emerging from an Irish Spring commercial, and completely upstaged, at least this week, any news that her countryman, Rory McIlroy, might have mustered.
Here’s the logic problem. Stephanie Meadow has been a professional golfer for one week – one brief seven-day week. Second, the Women’s US Open was her first tournament as a professional, and you’re just not supposed to do that at the US Open when you’ve never played a pro tournament before – I’m just saying.
Third, she’s twenty-two years old, and although that’s not an abnormal age to win golf tournaments – ask Lexi, Annika, or Michelle – tradition dictates that you take a little time to get the hang of things when you come out of college. Apaprently, Stephanie didn’t feel she had the time for that. She scored rounds of 71, 72, 69, and 69 to finish one over, in a tournament where only the winner came out under par.
She didn’t seem to mind the difficulty rating of the course, either. In all of the acolades she’s received as an amateur, I wouldn’t have thought she’d played courses like this very often, but with her British roots, it turns out that she’s played some of the best. Likewise, Alabama is no slouch among the states when it comes to new and prestigious golf courses.
Meadow has a history of winning things without taking up a lot of time to warm up. She was the 2012 British Ladies Amateur Champion, played on the 2012 and 2014 Curtis Cup, and sank the winning putt in the former. At Alabama, she became the Crimson Tide’s only four-time All-American, was a large part of the 2013 SEC Championship, won nine tournaments, and led the school to its first NCAA Championship.
Apparently, Meadow almost didn’t get here at all, qualifying as a first alternate with a 152 before being added to the field. She didn’t realize, it seems, that she was filling a space that is not ordinarily expected to pull off such feats, but oh well. She has no agents, no endorsements,and no expensive entourage, although I’m sure her clubs didn’t come from the bargain basement.
To hear Stephanie Meadow in an interview, there’s a fresh and cheerful atmosphere created that doesn’t occupy itself with career angst or the projection of brooding greatness – she’s friendly, generally cheerful, and doesn’t make a big deal out of herself. We’ll see if and how success changes someone who walked away with two hundred and seventy three thousand dollars US in her first week on the job.
We knew coming in that Michelle Wie had found herself, and that her game was ready to prove it at almost any day of the week, especially Sunday. We knew that if Stacy Lewis got a burr under the saddle, she could erupt into a birdie festival, and she did. Few of us, however, expected a recent college graduate with a cloud-dispelling Alabama smile and a breezy North Irish attitude to come in and hang with the two greats in such a convincing manner, four days in a row.