MacLaren races to support England Golf for combining men’s and women’s amtaeur

Wellingboro Golf Club’s LET winner Meghan MacLaren
LET winner Meghan MacLaren welcomed England Golf’s plan to combine the England Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships at Woodhall Spa, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Picture by TRISTAN JONES

THE LET’s Meghan MacLaren has backed ground-breaking plans to stage the English Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships simultaneously at Woodhall Spa in July.

The 25-year-old, who came through the England ranks as an amateur, has called for greater equality in prize money in the pro ranks.

She believes England Golf’s plan is another innovative step forward for golf.

McLaren went close to the first European Tour event that saw LET players compete head to head with Challenge and Staysure Tour members just over a year ago in the Jordan Mixed Open.

2019 Jordan Mixed Open winner Daan Huizing
Jordan Mixed Open winner Daan Huizing.

Having won the Women’s New South Wales Open for the second year in a row in March 2019, she finished second behind Daan Huizing, the winner of the St Andrews Links and Lytham Trophy as an amateur, in 2012, a month later.

Golf Foundation ambassador McLaren became the latest golfer to give up time to impart her knowledge of the game to England Golf’s national squads via an online Q&A session.

MacLaren looked back fondly on her amateur career with England and her time at Florida International University, where she won eight times.

In 2016, MacLaren was crowned European champion with England’s women’s amateur team  – the same year she helped GB&I to win the Curtis Cup.

MacLaren won LET Access Series

Meghan earned her tour card on the Ladies European Tour after winning the LET Access Series Order of Merit in 2017, having also won the last event of the 2016 season having turned pro in the autumn.

As a pro, MacLaren has won twice on the LET and has earned praise for her thought-provoking blogs about life on tour and her championing of the women’s game.

England Golf’s announcement last week that the staging of both the men’s and women’s amateur championship had been provisionally re-scheduled for the last week in July at the same venue has created a buzz.

MacLaren has been a strong advocate of equality in the game and hopes the coronavirus situation has eased by then to allow the events to take place side-by-side as planned.

“It might only be because of circumstances, but it’s a brilliant opportunity to see how it works going forward,” admitted the Wellingboro GC member, whose father is head of the Staysure Tour.

“There are a couple of events like that on the pro circuit – the Vic Open in Australia is the main one. It’s two separate events for men and women, but staged at the same time.

“I think it’s cool that it could be considered normal,” said Meghan, who has been brought up in a golfing family that cares passionately about the game at all levels.

“Men’s and women’s golf is different, but it doesn’t have to be different in terms of opportunities or prize funds at the pro level, or levels of talent.

“It’s just golf being played by different genders – and the earlier that becomes normal the better it is for the game as a whole,” she added.

Meghan MacLaren the 2019 winner of the New South Wales Open
Wellingboro Golf Club’s Meghan MacLaren – 2019 New South Wales Open champion after successfully defending her title. Picture by TRISTAN JONES

Curtis Cup winner opens up about life on tour

MacLAREN’S talk with the class of 2020 provided more than an hour’s worth of insight into her career, her development and her hopes for the future.

As with previous guests, Matt Wallace and Matt Fitzpatrick, the questions flooded in and MacLaren was only too happy to give a little back to the organisation that gave her so much in her amateur career.

The former Wee Wonders winner added: “All the squads are in great hands with the coaches at their disposal.

“But sometimes it’s different to hear things from a player who has previously been in squads.

“A player might go through the emotion of not being picked for a team – or not knowing if they are good enough to get on tour – or not knowing how they stand in relation to the best players in the world.

“It can even be something as simple as being told it’s ok not to practice for a couple of days if you’re working on mental or physical things.

“Now this seems to me like common sense, but when I look back there was a lot that I didn’t know.

“I questioned a lot of things, but I didn’t really know where to find the answers.”

Wee Wonders ace still keeps tabs on amateur game

MacLaren still keeps tabs on the amateur game and in January caught up with Yorkshire’s Charlotte Heath in Australia.

Heath had qualified for the Vic Open after winning the Australian Women’s Amateur, and the English contingent of Felicity Johnson, from the Midlands, Hertfordshire’s Hannah Burke, MacLaren and Heath enjoyed a rare photo opportunity.

“We were all on the putting green one day and it was cool to see different groups from England Golf coming together at an event like that,” said MacLaren.

“Charlotte did really well – I think out of the four of us she was the only one that made the cut. We had to learn from her.

“I still look at the amateur ranks and while I don’t know someone like Lily May Humphreys, I’ve seen how successful she has been and it’s intriguing for me to see what happens next.

“I loved my England days and still miss the input of being in a team environment – talking to coaches, players and practising together.

“You gain a lot from that and you only realise how much when it’s not there.”

• Masters Champion Danny Willett, the 2017 European No. 1 Tommy Fleetwood, Ryder Cup player Chris Wood and Solheim Cup stars Mel Reid and Bronte Law have all volunteered to pass on their wit, wisdom and experience to England squad members in online webinars over the coming weeks.

England players Felicity Johnson, Hannah Burke, Meghan MacLaren and Charlotte Heath on the practice ground at the 2020 Vic Open
R-L: Ex-England amateurs Felicity Johnson, Hannah Burke, Meghan MacLaren and Australian Women’s Amateur winner Charlotte Heath, from Yorkshire, at the Vic Open in February

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