Stephanie Meadow is a native of Jordanstown, Northern Ireland, and the first woman from Northern Ireland to play on the LPGA Tour. In 2014, she finished solo third at the U.S. Women's Open. Her victory at the 2018 IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa was her first win on the Symetra Tour, also marking the first time a woman from Northern Ireland has won on the official qualifying tour of the LPGA.
Last year was a difficult one for me. I was diagnosed with an L5 stress fracture (lower back), lost all of my LPGA Tour status, and started to forget what it was like to actually have fun on the golf course. It was tough to swallow, but when I was back home in December reflecting on my year, I knew that 2018 had to be different. I vowed to love the game again, have balance in my life, and get back to the things that made me a great college player. So far, that plan is working out pretty well!
Starting the final day, I thought it was going to take a pretty low round to catch the leader, but I continued to just go about my business and see what I could do. Despite making two early birdies, I finished the front nine at even par. When I saw the leaderboard on No. 9 green, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had actually made up some ground. I felt rejuvenated as I made the turn and with some steady play, found myself only two shots back as I walked to the 16th green. My ball was just off the green, so an up and down from there on the reachable par-5 was enough to get me within one! Excitement started to flow through me as I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I was in contention again, a feeling that I have been craving and working toward for quite some time. I missed a 10-foot birdie opportunity on the par-3 17th hole, but my final chance to catch the lead was to convert a 25-footer putt on No. 18. “All about speed, just give it a good chance,” I said to myself as I walked up to my ball. After giving a firm strike, I looked up to see it rolling end over end, straight towards the middle, and drop right into the center of the cup. I was thrilled! It didn’t matter if I got in a playoff or not, I just proved to myself for the first time in a long time that I could get it done when the pressure was on.
After 54 holes, me and Carleigh Silvers were tied at 4-under par for the tournament and off to the first playoff hole we went. After two average shots, I found myself with a 40-foot putt knocking on the door for birdie. “Speed, speed, speed,” I said to myself as I stood over the ball, visualizing its path to the hole. I was simply wanting to knock it up there close and put some pressure on Carleigh. To my amazement, the ball was tracking pretty well, right along the line of the double break. Once again, it dropped in the center of the cup. I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t made a putt outside of 20 feet the first two rounds and I had made a 25 and 40-foot putt to win the tournament. A whirlwind of emotions hit me as I walked off the green, including tears of joy as I realized that I had overcome all my physical and emotional troubles of 2017.
I have realized that golf is this strange and unpredictable journey. There are going to be ups and there are going to be downs, but in the end, as professional golfers, we have to love the the process, the journey as a whole. I believe we tend to hold on to the negatives of our journey a whole lot more than we let ourselves truly feel the positives, especially the small ones. Right now I’m trying to hold on to this winning feeling as long as I can and use it for confidence, but also to motivate me to want it even more again.