Stephanie Meadow has vowed to “play for Dad” when she makes her 2015 debut in the first LPGA major of the season in California today.
With her father and inspiration Robert Meadow battling serious illness, the 23-year old Jordanstown native tees it up in the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in California determined to put in a big performance.
“It’s been tough,” said the bubbly Ulster starlet who finished a sensational third behind Michelle Wie on her professional debut in last year’s US Women’s Open at Pinehurst No 2. “I have been at home taking care of dad and trying to spend as much time as I can with him.
“I picked it back up again recently and I’ve been going for a while so I am just excited to get started again.”
Meadow missed out on her LPGA Tour card after a marathon seven-hole playoff at the Q-School last year and is relying on invitations and Monday qualifiers to get a foothold on the tour this year.
“It was a huge boost to get a place in the field here,” she said from Rancho Mirage in California last night. “It’s a major and it’s got great prize money which could get me up the re-rank. So I’ll be going out and giving it my all — and playing for Dad.”
Meadow’s parents moved lock, stock and barrel to the United States when she was 14 so she could get the experience she needed to raise the level of her game.
“She was winning all the amateur events at home, so we reckoned that it would be better for her to come here and play against the best players in the world,” her father Robert, a retired corporate chief financial officer, told the New York Times last year. “She had run out of competition back home in Ireland.”
The plan worked brilliantly as Stephanie went on to have a stellar amateur career both with Ireland, Great Britain and Ireland and the University of Alabama.
Admitting it has been hard to focus on golf given her father’s illness, Meadow recently told BBC Radio in Northern Ireland: “My parents have done everything for me, everything I could ever ask for so I can’t thank them enough, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without their support. They’re great.
“I love golf and it has been kind like a bit of heaven on earth for me. It’s been nice to get out and just clear your head and use it as a tool for stress relief. I really do love it.
"I have a passion for it and it helps a lot. Even at a difficult time, golf is very important.”
Her friends on the Irish amateur scene have been wishing her well with Skerries' Maria Dunne summing up the general feeling about the first Irish woman to make a big impact on the professional game.
“I played with her just two years ago and while she is a super ball striker, she is also such a lovely person," Maria said. "I really admire her. The girls will have watched her finishing third in the US Women’s Open last summer and though, ‘I could do this.’ Stephanie is a really lovely person and a great role model for the girls to have.”
Meadow made the field thanks to her top five finish in the US Women's Open and knows that a Top 10 finish would get her into the next LPGA event. She also knows the course, having played it in college.