Baiting Hollow, N.Y. – The image of assistant pro Becky Lucidi McDaid tickling her daughter, Maggie, as she sits on the stone steps of the stately clubhouse of Friar’s Head, is blissful.
The former University of Southern California two-time All-America and LPGA Tour player is, by her own admission, in an almost perfect place now. On a brilliant fall morning at Friar’s Head, a stunning golf course along Long Island Sound, McDaid, with a sparkle in her eyes and a lilt in her tone, assesses her life.
“It’s kind of like a crazy calmness,” said McDaid, 31. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this busy in life, even with everything I’ve done, but I’ve never been this relaxed and happy. I can honestly say this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life to this point.
|Photo Gallery: Becky (Lucidi) McDaid|
“It’s who I am now. Big smile. After wife and mom, everything else is a distant third. I feel like I am comfortable with my identity. Before all this, I was Becky the golfer. That’s pretty much all I was. Now I feel like there is so much more.”
That outlook is in stark contrast to the one she had after passing out and then awakening hours later in a Midwest rental home during a Futures Tour stop in 2005. This frightening episode, which McDaid calls her low point, was the worst of several such incidents. It led McDaid, who had heart arrhythmia as a child, to finally seek medical help.
“My heart would go from 60 beats per minute and it would get jacked up to 220 in a second,” said McDaid, who won the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur. “My heart was going brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr and my heart’s pumping so fast and it’s not pumping enough oxygen to my brain so when you pass out, that’s your body’s way of naturally resetting. Once you get horizontal, your heart doesn’t have to work so hard to pump to your extremities. That’s what would happen more frequently on Futures.”
McDaid, ever the competitor and unaware of her heart condition, shrugged those incidents off as a case of nerves.
“Then, it wouldn’t go away,” she said. “I always thought I was mentally tough and that I could talk my way out of it. Athletes talk about how breathing can help you. After a while, it wasn’t working. It wasn’t calming it.”
“I didn’t tell anybody for a while. I accomplished a lot as an amateur and then there was the whole expectations thing. I wasn’t going to stop until I got my card and competed on the LPGA Tour. There was no other option, if nothing else, to prove to myself that I could do it. That was my goal. All this and I kept it quiet but it started happening more and more frequently – like on a weekly basis. I’m like, this isn’t normal. I had to tell my parents.”
In 2005, under the supervision of cardiologists at the University of California, San Diego, McDaid underwent a “tilt table test” to assess the unexplained fainting. At the outset of the test, her usual symptoms appeared. Doctors tried to treat her condition with medication and restriction of activity.
Meanwhile, McDaid was in the midst of trying to kick-start a professional golf career. In 2005 and 2006, she played a total of 30 events on the Duramed Futures Tour. She even competed on Golf Channel’s “The Big Break V: Hawaii.”
On her fourth try, McDaid secured her LPGA Tour card through qualifying school in 2007. Not long after that, her cardiologists told her she needed a pacemaker because two of her heart valves were not as strong as the others and insufficient blood was being pumped to her brain, causing the blackouts.
Undaunted by the uncertainty of her health, McDaid began her first year as a fully exempt LPGA Tour player in 2008. She did so with a steadying influence carrying her golf bag and providing emotional and professional support – her fiancé, Adam McDaid, a veteran club professional from Westchester, N.Y., who had played college baseball at Dominican College in Orangeburg, N.Y.
“It sounds cliché but without Adam I would not have been able to do what I was able to do in the last eight years,” Becky said. “He’s my rock. He’s the best.”
The McDaids were introduced by LPGA pro Meaghan Francella, who as a high school golfer worked with Adam at Westchester Country Club.
True to the small circles within golf, Adam had caddied briefly for Francella on the Futures and LGPA Tours. Francella competed against Becky on the Futures Tour and noticed something in each.
“I thought their personalities really matched,” Francella said. “They are both hilarious. Becky is one of the funniest people I have ever met – same thing with Adam. I thought they would mix well together and they did. The two of them were a match. I am 1 for 1 and I am stopping! I don’t want to set anyone else up; I don’t want to ruin my percentage.”
The circumstances of the first meeting were less than romantic. In 2006, McDaid, who played competitively as Becky Lucidi, had missed the cut at a Futures Tour event and drove two hours to the next stop in Tampa, Fla. As she struggled to find her swing flaw on a hardscrabble practice range with no grass, her frustrations grew. She was intent on finding the fix to her swing when Francella, the winner at the previous Tour stop, arrived at the practice range with McDaid, her caddie. Francella, who had been talking McDaid up to Lucidi, introduced the two, with Becky hardly looking up from her routine while Adam tried desperately to initiate a conversation.
“He’s trying to strike up a conversation and I want no part of it. I just want to hit balls,” Becky said. “I couldn’t tell you what he looked like.”
Over the next several weeks, Francella continued to serve as matchmaker, telling Becky that Adam was asking about her. Becky relented, made a phone call and she and McDaid finally made plans for dinner in Chicago, where McDaid was working at Shoreacres.
At the Futures Tour event in Indiana the weekend before their first date, Lucidi was disqualified for incorrectly moving a directional sign in the fairway.
“I get DQ’d on Sunday and I am so teed off I get in my car and I start driving to Chicago,” Becky said. “We had our first date that night.”
The McDaids were married in March 2009. Becky navigated quite a route from that Chicago dinner to a job where her husband is now her boss and her daughter enjoys a crib in her clubhouse office.
Their ride during that first LGPA season in 2008 was bumpy, with 13 missed cuts and some more passing out episodes. McDaid kept wondering if she was on the correct path and she finally took the surgical option.
“To see her not be able to perform at her highest level because of her health condition was tough to watch,” Adam said. “It was frustrating for her. No one really knew what the problem was. It frustrated her to the point where she didn’t want to play anymore. She definitely didn’t want to travel. She didn’t want to be out there on her own. The year I spent out there was a great thing for our relationship, to spend a lot of time together. But, it was tough to watch in person how her health affected her performance.”
On Oct. 30, 2008, UCSD surgeons implanted a pacemaker, approximately 2.5 inches long, to detect and regulate her heart rate. While wearing a heart monitor during her first week of post-op recovery, McDaid discovered that the pacemaker had to fire 256 times.
The pacemaker’s regulation of her heart rate spurred McDaid to move into the 2009 LPGA season with hope. However, her relationship with Adam, although he didn’t caddie for her that year, was setting a different perspective on her playing career.
“If I didn’t have Adam with me, I would have fallen apart,” Becky said. “I don’t think I would have played. I don’t think I ever would have had that opportunity to play a few years on the LPGA. I couldn’t have done it alone, never wanted to do it alone. But having him there to hold my hand, made it even possible.”
Becky, after a change to a conservative game plan in which she made a few cuts and some money playing “decently,” decided that Tour life was not for her and family meant more.
“I don’t think playing professionally on Tour was ever for me,” she said. “It never clicked with me. I treasure my home life too much. I am very close to my family; I love my family. I love routine and while you do have a routine on Tour, it’s different. You have to adjust every week. I’m not the one who gets to dictate that routine. It’s handed to me. The point when I knew I was in the clear was when I made the decision not to play on Tour anymore. Once I really committed to it, it was like the elephant got off my shoulders. There was no looking back.”
Meanwhile, Adam had become an assistant pro to Jim Kidd at Friar’s Head. When Kidd left before the 2010 season, Adam moved to the head professional’s position. Becky has been an assistant since 2010.
“They have helped to create and foster a warm, pleasant, fun and loving environment in which our members and their guests can take their golf seriously but relax, like they are at their second homes,” said Friar’s Head owner Ken Bakst, who won the 1997 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “That is the essence of Friar’s Head, and Adam and Becky very much help to make that happen. Becky has a wonderful way of making sure that people don’t take themselves too seriously while helping them to take their golf to a higher level.”
As an assistant pro, Becky occasionally demonstrates a shot for a member at Friar’s Head, where her best score is 70 (“It’s a hard course,” she said), and staves off comments like: “You should be out there playing.”
In 2010, she competed in four Metropolitan PGA Section events, winning all four. “Adam is always talking at the Met Section ‘majors,’” McDaid said. “I am who I am. I don’t have to grind out there, that was a relief.”
The road ahead seems clear for the McDaids, according to the man who brought them to Friar’s Head.
“They are very caring and loving for each other, as well as for Maggie, and it seems like they are just best friends who fell in love,” said Bakst. “They are similar in many ways – both being pretty laid back and low-key, and they are both quite engaging – but they also complement each other in ways in which they are different. In any event, I think the common thread is that they are both people who are comfortable being around other people, and they both love to take care of our members and their guests in a very special way, just like they take care of each other. That couldn’t be more obvious!”
Becky borrows from the example of her parents to exemplify marital teamwork.
“We bicker just like anybody else … behind closed doors, hopefully,” Becky said. “It’s a good balance. My parents had their own business when I was growing up. They worked together side by side. When they came home they would talk about work. They have a great marriage and a great family. If I can replicate that, I am doing something right. I love my job and Adam has his dream job. To be able to work together is like a dream come true.”
McDaid, known in golf as one of its happiest souls, possesses an effervescent personality and a captivating but genuine sense of humor. The happy-go-lucky side of her was a perfect blend for her tenacity as a competitor and now she can apply it at Friar’s Head. For someone who calls winning the title of high school class clown her favorite achievement – over the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur crown – McDaid’s perspective is, well, fun-loving.
She characteristically downplays the drama in her story.
“Everybody has their struggles in life,” McDaid said. “Everybody has their own hurdles, whether it’s financially or they had a bad childhood. Nobody’s life is perfect. I look at the few speed bumps I’ve had but I’ve had so many more joys in life that would offset that a thousand times over. I don’t even think about it anymore.”
That even-keeled perspective was honed in her competitive days when she ostensibly prepared for anything, on or off the course. After playing all sports as a youngster, she’d embraced golf at age 14 after being introduced to it by her sports-mad trio of older brothers in Poway, Calif.
“I loved the competitive part,” said McDaid, who earned a golf scholarship to the University of New Mexico before transferring to USC. “Up to then everything I had done was always team. Now, it was all me. The result was always on me. I loved that aspect of golf.”
Now, nearly 10 years after the crowning achievement of her golf career, which occurred at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Tarrytown, N.Y., near where husband grew up, McDaid sighs when asked about her life as it stands.
“I don’t think I could work anywhere else, I don’t think I would fit anywhere else,” McDaid said. “I would never want to work anywhere else. It’s too serendipitous.”
Pete Kowalski is the director of USGA Championship Communications and has covered more than 80 USGA championships. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.