EVIAN-LES-BAINS, FRANCE | Last week was a tough one for Melissa Reid. The Evian Masters was her mother’s favourite tournament and from the moment the 24-year-old Melissa arrived, the memories started to unfurl. Joy Reid had loved the little lakeside town, the mountain views, the flowers and the event itself.
It was as recently as 22 May that Brian and Joy Reid were involved in a head-on crash prior to the German Masters. Joy was taken to one hospital, her husband to another. Melissa rushed to each of them in turn and was able to take her father to her mother’s bedside before she died.
When she returned to the UK, Melissa wasted no time in collecting all her belongings and moving back to her parents’ home. She is now in the process of selling her property and will stay with her father for the foreseeable future.
“I’m a daddy’s girl,” explained Melissa, the hottest property on the LET and a member of last year’s winning European Solheim Cup side. “We’re very similar and he, like me, has lost his best pal. We’re tough on the outside but, when we’re at home, it kills me to see his pain.”
Reid has always had plenty of friends among her rivals on the US and European tours but, when her mother died, she saw another side to the player: They were as compassionate as they were competitive.
On the LPGA Tour, where she hopes to be playing in 2013, each of the women wore a purple badge inscribed with the name “Joy.” At home, Laura Davies, who said at the Solheim that Melissa was like the daughter she never had, penned her name on her ball for the German event. She lost in a play-off when Melissa had so longed for her to win.
Overall, the family received some 500 letters.
“You wouldn’t believe how much that support meant,” says Melissa. “The letters helped to take away from the grief and gave us something else to think about in the five weeks we had to wait for the funeral. (The delay was down to having a post-mortem both in Germany and back in the UK.)
“There were lots of girls,” continued Melissa, “who saw my mum as a mum on Tour, if you like. She loved them all and was never less than genuinely interested in their careers.
“My parents,” she continued, “were never pushy and all about me. They genuinely cared about others and they always encouraged me to treat people as I would want to be treated. Whenever I hadn’t done well in an amateur event, they would say, ‘Right, now let’s go and support so-and-so.”
Melissa missed three tournaments after Germany but returned to the fray in the Prague Golf Masters at the end of June. Thinking of her mother over every shot, she holed from six feet on the home green to win by a shot from Diana Luna. Immediately afterwards, she had a rush of phone calls, including one from Helen Alfredsson who could only cry.
The funeral took place on the Wednesday after the Prague. “I’d done what I had set out to do,” says the player. “I put a bit of smile on people’s faces.”
Paula Creamer is just one to have marvelled at what the Englishwoman achieved that week. “It was one of the most heart-warming stories I’ve ever known,” said the American. “For Melissa to fight through all that and then to go on to win was remarkable.”
Jiyai Shin, who lost her mother in a crash when she was just 13, suggested that Melissa would always have this feeling that her mother was looking out for her. “It never gets easy but Melissa has lots of friends and fans. They will help. When I spend time with my friends, they stop me from feeling too sad.”
For now, Melissa has good weeks and bad. The letters now only trickle through the letterbox and the loneliness has kicked in. Her caddie, Breanne Loucks, and her manager, Vicky Cumming, are there for her and she doubts whether she could be coping on Tour without them.
Half of her would like to disappear off the face of the golfing earth for a few weeks but, whenever she starts thinking along those lines, she asks herself what her mother would have advised. The answer, here, is that she would have wanted her to keep practising and to stick with it.
No one was surprised that Melissa who, like Maria Sharapova, is an Evian ambassador, would shine in her ambassadorial role last week. She went up in Evian’s helium balloon and participated in the annual football game in which she, Carly Booth and Laura Davies played alongside the caddies against a local Evian side.
Looking further down the road, Reid has what she suspects is a pretty good insight into the long-term effects of losing her mum.
“Eventually,” she ventures, “it will make me stronger and more mature. I think there will come a point where you could throw anything at me and I’d be able to take it on the chin.”