Kohler, Wis. – Just before beginning her warm-up on the Blackwolf Run driving range on Monday, two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb walked over to Melissa Reid and gave her a hug. Webb’s caddie followed suit.
In the past few weeks, this scene has been replayed many times for the 24-year-old Englishwoman.
Whether in person, via texts or Twitter/Facebook posts, the well-wishes have poured in by the hundreds.
For Reid, it’s been an emotional five-week odyssey that began the night of May 22 on a country road outside of Munich, Germany, and ended June 23 at the Ladies European Tour’s Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf Masters with one of the more improbable victories of this – or any – golf season.
“To watch Mel come down and win a tournament was brilliant,” said Reid’s Scottish caddie, Johnny Scott, who won in just his third event on her bag after spending the previous five years with Laura Davies. “We definitely won’t forget it.”
Neither will the golf world.
Five weeks ago, Reid’s parents, Brian and Joy, had just attended a pairings party for the German Open pro-am. Melissa had retired early, but Brian and Joy, regular travelers on the Ladies’ European Tour (LET) circuit since their daughter became a full-time member in 2008, socialized a little longer.
A stellar amateur who represented Great Britain and Ireland at the 2006 Curtis Cup Match at Bandon Dunes and earned low-amateur honors at the 2007 Women’s British Open, Reid was enjoying a meteoric rise in the professional ranks. Her parents had seen Melissa ascend from Rookie of the Year honors in 2008, to third on the LET Order of Merit in 2010 and second last year, a season that included two victories and six top-10 finishes, as well as a spot on the victorious European Solheim Cup Team.
That evening, after dropping off Reid’s uncle at his hotel, the couple was driving along a winding road near the village of Dachau. Brian was behind the wheel in their British car, so he was driving on the right side of the road but sitting on the right-hand side. His wife was in the left-side passenger seat. That’s when an oncoming car struck the Reid’s vehicle head-on.
Back at her hotel, Melissa received a voice mail. She thought it was odd that it was from her father, who rarely left voice-mails.
“I didn’t think it was serious,” said Melissa of her initial reaction. “I listened to the voice mail and I just heard hospital.”
Despite her limited German vocabulary, Reid managed to track down the right hospital in Munich. Her father had suffered broken ribs, but her mother was in serious condition. The next morning, doctors pronounced her dead from internal injuries. A devastated Reid immediately withdrew from the tournament.
The news stunned everyone on the LET. Brian and Joy were well known among the players.
Vicky Cumming, Reid’s manager, told the Daily Mail that “[Joy’s] death had come as a massive shock. Everyone knew Joy and loved her. She was a genuinely lovely person.”
Melissa took to Facebook to spread the tragic news. “I hate writing this on Facebook, but I know how much you love it mum. You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever met. Life is not measured by duration but by donation. Love you always xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.”
Melissa’s sister, Joanne Alsbury, wrote: “Can’t sleep. Friends are putting such nice things here and I’m personally finding it comforting in a strange way.”
Players at the German Open wore black armbands in Joy Reid’s memory.
At Chevin Golf Club in Duffield, Derby, England, Captain Willie Bird told the Daily Mail how much the members loved Joy. “She was the life and soul of the party and one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. She would do anything for anyone at any time…The club is a very somber place right now.”
Reid found plenty of comfort and support from family, friends and fellow competitors on both the LET and LPGA Tour. Some even visited her home in England.
“I don’t think we would have managed to cope as well as we’ve had without that support,” said Reid on Monday as she prepared for her second U.S. Women’s Open appearance. “Obviously the messages have meant so much to me. Very, very touching.”
Reid withdrew from the year’s second major, the LPGA Championship in suburban Rochester, N.Y. But she wanted to play the Women’s Open. Last year at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., Reid missed the cut with rounds of 77-76.
Reid entered the LET event in the Czech Republic, not knowing how her emotions or her game would stand up. There were no expectations. The LET exempted her from the pro-am for the 54-hole event.
So many thoughts were swirling in Reid’s head. But she felt this was the best way to honor her mother. The warm reception from fellow players was overwhelming.
As she stepped to the first tee, Reid felt at peace. Getting inside the ropes would be therapeutic.
“Actually, it was really nice to play golf again,” she said.
Playing the course without the benefit of a practice round, Reid opened with a 68. She followed with a 67 and suddenly her expectations changed.
“She was really cool,” said Scott of her attitude. “I tried to send her in the right direction. She wasn’t thinking about golf. She was just playing. And before you know it, you are nine, 10, 11 under. All of a sudden you’re thinking I’ve got a chance [to win].”
On Sunday, the emotions were a bit different, but she never got nervous. Considering the ordeal she had endured the previous month, not even a 6-foot putt with everything on the line would seem that important, which is exactly what she faced on the 18th green to complete a final-round 72 and a one-stroke victory over Diana Luna.
Reid made the putt for her fourth professional win, and under the circumstances, likely her best.
Fellow players hung around to watch the drama unfold, and the Twitter world went viral with the news.
“All of the emotions came out at the end,” said Scott, a 12-year veteran who also caddied five years for Janice Moodie. “I said nothing to her [over the final putt]. It was the same as always. I just let her go.”
Added Reid: “I consider myself a strong person. I handle my emotions quite well. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s a bad thing. I think my determination that week was something quite special and to win was very, very special. It was good news to bring to my family.”
It was also bittersweet. The post-tournament celebration was tempered by the scheduled funeral this past Wednesday in Derby. It had been five weeks since the accident. Five weeks since Melissa Reid’s world had been completely turned upside down.
A few days later, she was on a plane headed to Wisconsin for the U.S. Women’s Open. While her father did not make the trip (he is still recovering from his injuries and watching her dog), six other close friends did join Reid. They are sharing a house in the area, trying their best to enjoy the week.
Reid admitted that the funeral altered her preparations for the biggest major championship in women’s professional golf. Then again, she arrived in America’s Heartland without any expectations. Perhaps the same mindset she had in Prague might work at Blackwolf Run.
“I’m just going to enjoy the week,” she said. “It puts things in perspective when something like this happens.”
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at email@example.com.