‘It’s an exciting time to be a woman in sport’ — pro-golfer Stephanie Meadow is still beating the odds
Having just secured her LPGA card for next season, Irish pro-golfer Stephanie Meadow chats to IMAGE about her career so far, and why there’s never been a better time to a be a woman in sport.
“I guess I started playing golf at around six years old”.
Stephanie Meadow, now 27, has always had golf in her blood. Originally from Jordanstown in Co Antrim, Meadow played the sport throughout childhood, before she made the move to the US in her late teens to play for the University of Alabama. “I was lucky to have parents that were very supportive and when they retired, they were prepared to move their life over the States to support my career”.
A gamble, no doubt, as the category of Irish female pro-golfers is relatively small. But it would pay off, as, by the end of her university career, Meadow was a record-holder in almost every category, winning nine tournaments and becoming the Crimson Tide’s first four-time first-team All-American.
Challenges and knockbacks
The future was bright, and Meadow started her post-university career off with a bang — she came third in the 2014 US Women’s Open (her first professional tournament), and represented Ireland in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. However, a series of tough challenges would show Meadow’s resilience more than any golfing competition.
In 2015, she sadly lost her father to pancreatic cancer, and in 2017, having gained her LGPA tour card for the year, she began to feel the strain that the sport was taking on her body.
“I began to feel pain in my lower back, but brushed it off, as it obviously isn’t unusual for golfers to feel pain in that area. I just kept powering through and ignoring every twinge — the type of person I am, I have this determination to push myself and to keep going through the discomfort. Until one day I woke up and realised the pain had gotten to a point where I couldn’t do that anymore.”
Meadow had suffered a stress fracture on the vertebrae in her lower back and had to have surgery to repair the damage, needing four months off to heal and rehabilitate her body. The time off from the sport she loved was rough, but what has it taught her?
“I’ve had to learn how to take it easier and listen to my body when it tells me something is wrong.
I do have a problem with limiting myself, but I used to go to the driving range and hit balls for hours and hours every evening — I don’t do that anymore.”
Meadow continues: “I have a better mindset now, and I’m determined to not let the injury hold me back — but I just know that I need to look after myself too”.
The injury forced Meadow to step down and compete in the Symetra Tour in 2018, but she stepped up to the challenge, and finished sixth on the Tour money list, earning her Tour Card for the 2019 LGPA. At the time of writing, Meadow has just retained her status on the LGPA tour for 2020.
How fitting, then, as Meadow is also an official sponsor of 20×20, the movement to increase visibility, participation and attendance levels of women in sport in Ireland by 20% by next year. As with her sporting career, Meadow takes the role very seriously.
“I remember when I first became involved with 20×20, and I saw the ad that they had made, where the little girls are asked about female role models in sport, and none of them can name any. It hit me really hard, because that’s exactly how I was too.
I had all these golfers that I looked up to and wanted to be like, but none of them were women — there was no visibility of Irish women golfers, and I never knew that they could exist. So now, to think that I could be a role model for young girls in my position, I feel so lucky.”
With the success of the 20×20 campaign, what are Meadow’s hopes for the future of women in sport?
“I feel like it’s a really exciting time to be a female sports player, at any level and at any age, and I think we have to support girls who want to get involved. I’ve been given amazing opportunities, and I want to make sure that other girls can have the same. Don’t be afraid to chase after your dreams”.
Stephanie Meadow is a brand ambassador for Investec, an official sponsor of 20×20, an all-inclusive movement to shift Ireland’s cultural perception of women’s sport.
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