TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Mel Reid considered Catriona Matthew’s offer and did her best to maintain her composure.
Yes, Reid knows she should have been flattered when Matthew called two years ago to ask if Reid would serve as one of Matthews’ vice-captains for the European team at the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.
It’s just that Reid, a three-time veteran of the biannual showdown between the top players in the U.S. and Europe, didn’t feel flattered. At least not in the moment.
A vice-captaincy is an honorarium of sorts typically given to experienced players far closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. Reid didn’t consider herself in that category at the time. At least not yet.
So she attempted to collect herself, told Matthew “no” and hung up.
“I was pissed,” Reid said.
The rage lasted all of 30 seconds. Then the player who grew up playing team sports and didn’t officially “retire” from soccer until her mid-20s called Matthew back, apologized, accepted, and then found herself storming onto the 18th green at Gleneagles with everyone else after Suzann Pettersen’s 7-foot putt won the Cup for the Europeans.
It was frantic. It was joyous. Reid also vowed for it to be a one-off.
She shot Matthew a text shortly after the victory ceremony saying she wanted to play for Matthew at a Solheim Cup one day.
Done. And done.
Reid will head to the first tee box at Inverness on Saturday with a driver in her hand instead of a walkie-talkie. Her fourth Solheim Cup appearance coming courtesy of a hard reset that propelled her to her first victory in the U.S. (the 2020 ShopRite LPGA Classic) and a wild-card spot on the 12-woman team.
The charismatic 33-year-old is just the fourth player to return to the Solheim Cup as a competitor after serving as an assistant, making good on that promise she made to herself shortly after that brilliant, chilly Sunday in Scotland.
“It’s nicer (playing) than giving out water bottles if I’m being honest,” Reid said.
She always is. It’s why she so freely admits she was upset when Matthews passed her over in 2019. Reid knows she wasn’t playing anywhere near her best at the time — she made the cut just twice in her final seven events before the 2019 team was selected — but she also felt her resume and role as one of the de facto emotional leaders should have earned her more consideration.
Then again, Reid is a realist. She had a chance to earn one of the six automatic qualifying spots just like everybody else. She didn’t. Matthew knew it was hard for Reid to say yes to an assistan’t role.
Reid’s decision, however, just offered proof of the selflessness Reid brings to the course when the 20-pound crystal Solheim Cup is on the line.
“I think that just really just shows the passion and the desire she has for the team,” Matthew said. “She realizes it’s not about the individual. It’s about the team.”
Reid’s experience working behind the scenes at Gleneagles gave her a better appreciation for what awaits at brawny 6,903-yard Inverness, an opportunity that arose after she reclaimed her game.
She switched caddies heading into 2020 and tweaked her mental approach with the help of a sports psychologist. The results followed almost immediately. Her victory at the ShopRite last October came in the middle of a stretch in which she finished in the top 12 five times in six events.
Now she’s back at the Solheim Cup, a player but also in some ways still a vice-captain. A playing one. Her stint as an assistant taught her something about the importance of communication and making sure the rookies are heard.
It’s one of the reasons she gave 26-year-old first-timer Leona Maguire a nickname (“Mags”) in an effort to loosen her up. And if it helped Maguire understand she could approach Reid for advice, all the better. It’s what leaders, by any name, do.
“It’s quite overwhelming to start with (if you’re a rookie), but I feel like people say I’m intimidating,” she said. “I’m completely opposite. I think I’m soft as butter.”
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