For the first time this week, Cissye and Kathleen Gallagher are teammates, but in a lot of ways, these players representing Mississippi in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship have been down this road plenty of times.
"Usually in a practice round, she’s there helping me out, but it was totally different [Monday]," Kathleen, 17 and the reigning Mississippi Women’s Amateur champion, said of her mother, who has won their state title an astounding 11 times. "She was playing this time, she wasn’t actually walking beside me, so that was neat; it was a lot of fun."
While the Gallaghers – along with their teammate Meagan Roberts – struggled on the first day at NCR Country Club, if individual accolades are an accurate projection of team success, the Magnolia State trio should be competitive this week. Indeed, to say winning golf runs in the Gallagher family would be an understatement. In addition to the success of Cissye and Kathleen in their state championship, Mary Langdon, Kathleen’s older sister, won the state title in 2010, and Cissye’s father, Ed Meeks, won the men’s state title in 1971.
That part of the family resume is impressive enough, but it’s just the beginning. Cissye’s husband is Jim Gallagher Jr., a five-time winner on the PGA Tour who has represented the USA in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. His brother is Jeff Gallagher, who has won twice on the Web.com Tour, and his sister is Jackie Gallagher-Smith, an All-American at Louisiana State who went on to win the 1999 Giant Eagle LPGA Classic. All three won amateur titles at the state level before turning professional, and were undoubtedly influenced by their father, Jim Gallagher Sr., who spent more than 40 years as a club pro at Meshingomesia Country Club in Marion, Ind., north of Indianapolis.
"We both grew up playing golf. From both sides, it’s just a game that my family and his family have loved," said Cissye, who opened her fourth Women’s State Team appearance on Tuesday with adisappointing 14-over-par 87. "We have enjoyed taking our children on Sunday afternoons after church and just enjoying the day with them. Nobody gets too caught up on how to hit a sand shot or anything, we’re just finishing, going forward."
That’s not to say that Cissye, who was a teammate of Jackie’s at LSU when she met Jim, hasn’t gone toe-to-toe with her children on the golf course. In fact, she was able to make this June’s Mississippi Women’s Amateur a true family affair. Going for her 12th state title, she defeated daughter Mary Langdonin the quarterfinals, and came very close to facing Kathleen in the championship match, ultimately falling to MaryLangdon’s Mississippi State teammate and two-time defending champion, Ally McDonald, in the semifinals. The question about which of the two would have won had Kathleen and Cissye squared off for the state title is met with laughter and uncertainty.
"I had just played my daughter in the quarterfinals, so I don’t know if I could have done that [again]. I teased [Kathleen] and told her I would’ve taken her," Cissye said.
She thinks she would have [won], and I think I would have. We will never know, Kathleen added with a smile. When we are playing together, we always play a match.
Jim now plays on the Champions Tour and was competing in the Regions Tradition, one of the Tour’s majors, when his wife and daughters were making their runs at the state amateur title. This week, he was planning to carry Kathleen’s bag at NCR Country Club, but traveled to Hawaii when he earned a spot in this week’s Champions Tour event. Cissye, Kathleen, and Mary Langdon won’t find a bigger cheerleader than their husband and father, as demonstrated during Kathleen’s championship triumph this June.
"He wanted to hear everything about it, I was on the cell phone on the back of the 18th green going back and forth, he was with the guys on the putting green relaying things to them," Cissye recalls. "It was fun for him, but he hated not to be there."
While Kathleen won’t have Jim as her caddie this week, he has carried for Cissye a number of times, including several of her state titles. A reinstated amateur after spending a year on the LPGA Tour (a shoulder injury and the difficulties of having two spouses on tour led her to reconsider), Cissye has competed in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur four times, advancing to match play on three occasions, with Jim serving as her caddie each time. Though he hasn’t caddied for Kathleen yet, he would serve as a strong asset given his knowledge of her game.
"The coolest thing, he was on the ground stretching one time when I was hitting balls, he wasn’t even looking, and he heard me hit one and just said, ‘That was right, wasn’t it?’" recounted Kathleen, who shot 86 on Tuesday. "Then I hit one kind of chunky left and he just went ‘Chunk left,’ and I just said ‘What the heck! How do you know this?'"
This week, it will be Cissye providing the voice of experience. With Virginia Derby-Grimes not competing this year after having represented Mississippi in the last three Women’s State Teams, Cissye is the lone team member to have played it in the past. She is certainly taking the role as de-facto captain to heart, as evidenced during Monday’s practice round.
"I really just wanted to help them to know how to play this golf course, where to lay up, where to go ahead, because I don’t have to think about it, since they hit it so much further than I do," Cissye said. "Course strategy, that kind of stuff. I would have done that with [Kathleen] if I was here and she was playing in the event, but it’s neat to get to play beside her."
Scott Lipsky is the USGA’s social media specialist. Email him at slipsky@USGA.org.