Stephanie Meadow beginning to make hay

Meadow claimed third place in the US Open on her professional debut

The other day Stephanie Meadow rolled in a par putt on the 18th green at Southport & Ainsdale in the final qualifying for the British Women's Open, signed her card, handed it into the recorder's and, job done, made the short car journey to Royal Birkdale golf club to register for the championship which gets under way on the famed Lancashire links tomorrow.

Her first knowledge of the links at Royal Birkdale came in the way of the detailed yardage book the Ulsterwoman acquired on registering. Yesterday was spent getting to know the course a little more intimately, its nuances, its vagaries.

Just like a seasoned professional, really.

Meadow, though, is the new kid on the block. One who has made an immediate impact. The British Open, where the 22-year-old will play alongside Lexi Thompson and Gwladys Nocera in the first two rounds, will mark Meadow’s third appearance of what has been a whirlwind start to a professional career. It has been seamless.


But Meadow's arrival on tour has been no accident, her route fashioned by a carefully mapped path that t started with a win as a 14-year-old in the Irish Girls' Championship and a subsequent move to the US – which entailed her family moving to Hilton Head in South Carolina – where she joined the Hank Haney Junior International Golf Academy.


That international academy is the only one in the world to combine training, competition and academics for serious junior golfers – where annual fees cost up to $65,000 – and it laid the foundations for Meadow’s upward learning curve.

By the time she went to the University of Alabama she was more than ready. Meadow jumped into collegiate golf with an ability to deliver academically and on the golf course, and was a stand-out.

In her time at college Meadow was a four-time All-American – in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 – and left Alabama as the career record holder in virtually every category: she finished with a 71.89 scoring average, just 0.17 strokes above par per round over her 132 career rounds; won nine collegiate tournaments (three times more than anyone else in the college’s history), and, on a visit to Carnoustie in 2012, won the Ladies British Amateur Open championship. In short, she was a winner, a star.

Yet few could have believed that the transition into the professional game would be so sensational. Meadow was playing in the Curtis Cup in early June when a phone call came from the USGA that she had moved from alternate status to securing a place in the field for the US Women's Open at Pinehurst No.2 in North Carolina.

That Curtis Cup marked her swansong as an amateur. Britain and Ireland lost the trophy to the United States, but Meadow was the team's top scorer and marked her departure with a singles win over Allison Lee – the world ranked number two player – before moving on to Pinehurst where she announced her anticipated decision to turn professional.

“It is always something I wanted to do, was 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. I think, in my opinion, that’s the way to do it.”

Meadow arrived in Pinehurst on the Sunday of the final round of the men's US Open. Martin Kaymer was robotically conquering the No 2 course en route to his second career Major and Meadow managed to gain access inside the ropes to watch Rory McIlroy competing.

Afterwards she had a quiet chat with McIlroy before moving on to the range which by then was being occupied by women golfers preparing for their own Major examination.

It was at Pinehurst that week that Meadow was introduced to a local caddie by the name of Brad Yutzy. During the men's championship he had acted as a photographic runner for the AP agency. That introduction to Meadow would change his immediate future. He is now her touring bagman.

By the Sunday afternoon of the final round Meadow was among those featuring in the latter pairings at the business end of affairs.

Third place


Michelle Wie

won her breakthrough Major and world number one

Stacy Lewis

chased her home, it was Meadow – on her professional debut – who claimed third place on her own. Her first pay cheque was one for $271,373 (€199,455).

Of that immediate impact, Meadow was the least surprised. “I feel that I belong.”

The Ladies European Tour did not waste any time in extending an invite to Meadow to play in the European Masters, one of its flagship tournaments. Meadow didn’t need to be asked twice and accepted. Yutzy, the caddie, was asked to go along, now part of Team Meadow. “It was one of those things where I thought, ‘we kind of need to keep this going’,” said Meadow of bringing Yutzy on board.

And, last week, on a Buckinghamshire course far removed from the wonderfully natural landscape of Pinehurst, Meadow again delivered on the professional stage. In her second outing as a professional she finished third and won €27,733.

On Monday, she moved on to Southport for British Open qualifying and, again, finished third to book her ticket to Royal Birkdale.

Naturally she’s excited. “The whole atmosphere of a British Open is something special, isn’t it? I’m going to have a few people I know come over to watch. That doesn’t happen every day, so that will be pretty special.”

Driving force

After her third place finish in the US Open, Meadow observed: “If you’re a competitive person, this is a driving force, you do well and you want more . . . I want to try and win Majors some day.”

This week she is back in another Major. Her second Major in only her third professional event. Could there be an element of fate about the fact that it happens to be at Birkdale?

On the last Major championship to be held at the links, Pádraig Harrington – who, like Meadow, also studied to be an accountant – won the British Open. Could the numbers possibly add up again?

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times