EL DORADO, ARKANSAS | She is what the young people call a “cool hang,” the kind of person you start talking to and, before you know it, an hour has flown by and you don’t want to stop. Meghan MacLaren is from the little town of Rushden in Northamptonshire, the middle of England and an area that is not on a single travel agency’s list of stops. But it’d be worth trekking to the East Midlands just to spend some time with her. At age 27, MacLaren is arguably the most thoughtful, articulate, curious, provocative and well-rounded person in our game. Man or woman. Any tour, any age. Pick a subject. She either knows enough about it to keep up her end of the social contract or she knows the perfect questions to ask.
She is also a heck of a player. A veteran of the Ladies European Tour who attended Florida International University, MacLaren committed herself to the Symetra Tour in 2021 to focus on the ultimate goal, a career on the LPGA Tour. Thanks to the help of some friends in the Orlando area who provided her with a base from which to travel, she has found her way to the winner’s circle once, at the Prasco Charity Championship in June, and is currently at No. 18 in the Race to the Card with three events remaining.
More importantly, she has learned a lot about herself and about what she needs to do to rise to the next level.
“I’ve come a long way this year,” MacLaren said. “It would have been nice to take advantage of the good play that I’ve had. But if you’d told me at the start of the year that I was going to win out here, I would have been happy with that. I think I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot, all of those cliched things. But to realize that I can compete out here is all that I could have hoped for from the year.
“I only played three LET events this year because I told myself that if I was going to be on Symetra, I was going to be all-in on Symetra. I think I’ve only missed one event. That’s the way it has to be. The depth is too great, and the standard is too high for it to be anything otherwise. You can’t afford to miss events. I love the LET and I’m lucky to have the opportunity to do both. But the more time I’ve spent out here (on the Symetra Tour), the more I’ve learned to appreciate what it can do for me and what it has to offer.”
She knows that you can’t commute from England. Mel Reid tried that for a while before realizing that heading to the other side of the world for a week of rest, practice, home cooking and laundry was no way to build a career. Lee Westwood realized the same thing, as did Rory McIlroy. Having a stateside hub is an imperative on any U.S. based tour but especially one like Symetra where direct flights to some of the towns are few and far between.
“I’ve been back home (to England) more than I anticipated,” MacLaren said. “I realized early on that there are some things you need mentally. And I need to get home. It’s been a nice refresh. It’s good to see my coaches as well. But just to get away and reset is important. You can’t compete out here if you don’t have that.
So, as someone for whom honest self-reflection has never been a problem, is she making the right moves?
“I don’t feel like I’m stuck,” MacLaren said. “If you feel like you’re stuck you need to take a step back and figure it out because there’s stuff to learn every single week. Yes, of course, I would love to be on the LPGA Tour every week and competing in majors. That is where I want to be. But there is so much to appreciate out here. Every tournament gives you something new.
“I do reflect a lot, maybe to my detriment. But that’s part of why I enjoy this opportunity to be out here on the Symetra Tour. I’m not necessarily achieving everything that I want to. But I’m learning so much more about myself than I ever could have playing anywhere else.
“You have to be comfortable in your own skin and with your own thoughts. It’s so easy to drive yourself into a rut out here. Especially on this tour, because you can play good golf and miss six cuts in a row. You have to be brave enough to know when you’re on the right path.
“It’s a combination of trusting yourself and having the right people around you. If you don’t have those things, you’re not going to last long out here.”