Sunday 8 December 2019

Major boost on the cards for Meadow

Stephanie Meadow can secure her US playing credentials for 2015 with a top-four finish in the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images
Stephanie Meadow can secure her US playing credentials for 2015 with a top-four finish in the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Stephanie Meadow's first impact on the world of professional golf rivals that of her friend and hero, Rory McIlroy.

Famously, it took McIlroy just three tournaments and a matter of weeks to win his European Tour card back in 2007.

Well, Meadow can secure her US playing credentials for 2015 with a top-four finish in the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale on Sunday in only her second LPGA Tour event.

The $271,373 cheque which came with Meadow's third-place finish on her professional debut in last month's Women's US Open has put the Jordanstown woman within hailing distance of the $400,000-plus threshold she must cross to book her place on the American circuit next year.

Those who win enough to get into the top-40 on the final money list will be awarded their card in 2015. Next Sunday's winner will bank $450,000 (just over €330,000), but with a bumper $3m purse on offer in Southport, the fourth-placed finisher will earn $157,000.

Enough to give Meadow her ticket to the lucrative US circuit. Last Sunday's super third place on her Ladies European Tour debut at The Buckinghamshire doesn't count on the US Money List.

Having made it through to her second Major in four weeks by finishing third in Open Final Qualifying on Monday, she relished teeing it up with Lexi Thompson and Gwladys Nocera in this morning's first round, even at 6.41am!

Following Tuesday's pro-am at Birkdale, Meadow sought physio for the slight backache she has endured in recent weeks, but clearly didn't hamper her too badly at the European Ladies Masters last Sunday as the gifted Irishwoman swept to a record-equalling 63 in the final round.

Might this be another portent of great things for Meadow this week. Padraig Harrington defied a wrist injury in 2008 before lifting the Claret Jug the last time the men's Open Championship was staged at Royal Birkdale.

As the women's US Open was played the week after the men's at Pinehurst, Meadow was delighted to get a few valuable pointers from McIlroy.

McIlroy was just 18 when he turned pro, while Meadow spent the past four years studying with distinction for a first-class degree in accountancy and playing at the University of Alabama.

"It is always something I wanted to do," he said. "To get my degree and have that as back up just in case. I waited a long time to turn pro. I had a lot of years to get ready for it, a lot of years to get better, and felt like my game was ready. That's the way to do it."

This maturity and the strong competitive edge which lies just below her ever cheerful exterior appears likely to drive Meadow straight into the upper echelons in the professional game.

IMPORTANT

World No 1 Stacy Lewis, this week defending the title she won at St Andrews last year, echoed Meadow's remarks on the importance of completing their education before heading out on Tour.

"I love seeing girls go to college, where you learn how to be an individual; how to take care of yourself and take care of your game and not rely on so many people. That's the biggest advantage of going to college," she said.

While Lewis landed a morale-boosting third LPGA Tour victory of 2014 in Arkansas last Sunday, Michelle Wie's confidence is soaring after her first Major win at Pinehurst.

Lewis and Wie are the favourites this week, but it seems like only a matter of time before Royal Portrush star Meadow graduates from contender into champion and joins McIlroy in the Major winners club.

WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN, LIVE, BBC 2, 1.00pm

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