British golfer Mel Reid first picked up a club at the age of 11. By 13, she’d been scouted by England Golf, and by 21 was playing as a professional. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with her fiancée Carly, the 34-year-old ellesse athlete has seven pro wins to her name, including the LPGA’s ShopRite Classic in 2020.
A passionate campaigner for inclusion and equality within the sport, Mel chats about the challenges women golfers face regarding sponsorship, plus we cover the physical training required to be a first-class golfer, the mental focus required, and more.
You’ve been playing golf since you were 11. How did you get started?
I first got into golf because I couldn’t play football anymore. I used to play for Derby County Academy in the boys’ team, but when I had to transition into women’s football, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much. So I took up golf – basically because my parents didn’t want me to pester them during the summer holidays. They took me down the local club, where they were members.
A lot of the boys I had played football with were already playing golf, so I got into it because of the social aspect and absolutely fell in love with it. My mum would drop me off at seven in the morning and pick me up at 8’O’clock at night. I could not get enough of golf and just caught the bug immediately.
Now you live in Jacksonville, Florida. Talk me through a typical day in your life?
I get up really early – I’m an early bird. My thing is: ‘Win the morning, win the day’. So if the surf’s really good first thing in the morning, at sunrise I’ll be out in the ocean for about an hour. If not, I’ll be working out at 7am. I usually do an hour of exercise in the morning and then get to the golf course around 9-9.30am and do my practice regime, which is 2-3 hours, depending on what I’m working on.
After lunch, I’ll try and get a mini game with one of the boys. I’m very fortunate that there are a lot of great young players at Atlantic Beach Country Club, so it’s not difficult to get a mini game. I think it’s important to get on the golf course pretty much every day. As professionals, I feel that we’ve kind of become a bit like ‘range rats’ and we try and be too perfect. I really enjoy spending a bit more time on the golf course than I have done in previous years.
If I worked out in the morning, I’ll probably just do some light mobility and stretching in the evening because I can’t really sit still. It drives Carly nuts. But if I just surfed in the morning, I’ll probably do a strength workout. Then I’ll have a healthy dinner and make sure I get enough sleep ready for the next day. I’m pretty boring when I’m in season.
Is there a specific type of strength or fitness that’s important to you as a golfer?
Fitness is huge. Especially for me, as I’m built more like a runner, and I don’t really have a lot of muscle mass. I’ve just got a good engine on me. I have to work extremely hard to create any type of muscle and to hold the positions that my coach has me working on. I have a great trainer and I’m fortunate I’ve got a good team, including a great physio who keeps me in check.
Strength-wise it’s your glutes, your legs, your core [which are important]. It’s all from the ground up – we’re trying to create explosive power. Activation is huge – before I even hit balls, I have to do some activation work because otherwise, I’m on my backfoot already and I’m wasting time.
Recently, speed’s been a big focus, so we’re trying to be a bit more explosive through the golf ball and maintain positions for a lot longer. I’m fortunate that I do enjoy working out, but as I said, I have to work very hard to be able to create muscle. There are players that don’t have to do that as much because they’re naturally built with very different body types. I’m fortunate that I love fitness, and even if I wasn’t a golfer, fitness would still be a very important part of my life.
Do you get nervous ahead of a big game or tournament?
Yeah, of course, I get nervous before every event. Sometimes the nerves are good, sometimes they’re bad. I think that it means that you care. I go with the mindset that if I’m in a good place with my swing, it’s an excited nervous – I want to get out there and get playing. The same if I’m not hitting it great – I’m a little bit anxious, a little bit nervous. But again, I’m still a bit excited to get out there and see what score I can shoot without being uncomfortable.
What strategies do you use to stay focused when you’re nervous?
I think it’s how you respond to those feelings – you can use them as a detriment or as a positive. That’s something that we’re all trying to work on his athletes: trying not to let the emotion take over, and [instead] let the principles take over a little bit. Not let things get to you too much. I think the longer that you do this, the more aware you are of what kind of state of mind you’re in, and the state of mind you need to get into. But trust me, it’s still very, very difficult at certain times throughout the season. Breathing really helps; meditation helps. It’s all about the process; just understanding what you can and cannot control.
How much of a role does mindset play in professional golf?
Yeah, the mental game is huge. I’ve worked with a preparation coach, Howard Falco, for almost two years now, and he’s been a great asset to my team. The best way I can describe the mental side of golf is that you’re trying to get rid of noise. You’re trying to make things as tunnel vision and as calm as possible.
The mind is the most complex part of our body, and we don’t have a manual to work it, so it’s [about] trying to figure it out. But I do also think that if you have a golf swing that is very repeatable, that can help [your golf career] hugely. If you haven’t got good technique but a great mind, it’s only going to take you so far. It’s a definite combination of both, but the mental side is probably slightly more important. Mental wellbeing is something everyone needs to take extremely good care of – not just athletes.
You’re sponsored by ellesse. However, you’ve been vocal in the past about the lack of sponsorship opportunities for female golfers – even the world’s best players. Can you share more about your experience?
Obviously [gaining] sponsorship is very different for women. I think that a lot of girls don’t see their worth, and I’ve learnt this from past experiences. I’ve been very fortunate with the sponsorship that I’ve had, especially recently, in that I see my worth and the brands I partner with see it too. To be associated with those kinds of [sponsorship] partners and stand for the same values is very, very important to me.
Sponsorship is something that I’ve always been vocal about, especially in women’s golf which I can have an opinion on because I’ve seen the good and bad side of it. I certainly think it’s changing; I think people are starting to respect women’s sport more now. There are a lot of great companies that come out and support women’s golf, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I really believe that we do need to move the needle more, but the change is starting which is good.
I know that you’re passionate about making golf a more diverse and inclusive sport. Do you think the sport is moving in the right direction?
I think golf is definitely moving in the right direction with diversity and inclusion. I know that it has been seen as an elite, old gentleman’s sport, and I certainly think that’s changing. People are speaking up more to make it more inclusive for everybody – every walk of life. Every single background. It really doesn’t matter where you come from, what religion, what race, what sexuality you are, everyone should have the opportunity to play golf. When we talk about growing the game, that’s something I’ve always pushed for and it’s something I’m very passionate about.
I think that [golf] clubs are understanding that they do need to modernise a little bit; it can’t be ‘jacket and tie’ [dress code] in the clubhouse, and [separate] men and women’s clubhouses, because they’re just falling behind. Certain traditions, I think should stay in golf – like integrity, discipline, honesty. They’re just part of the game; they’re the traditions that will always stay. But I think the clubs which aren’t moving in the right direction are being left behind.
I certainly feel that golf is moving in the right direction, but I’ll keep speaking up to move that needle a little bit more.
What are your goals/plans for 2022? I hear you have a wedding coming up…
Yeah… getting married is stressful! We’ve set a date. Carly’s not realised what she’s doing yet – she’s still standing by me for now! We’re extremely excited. I think that it’s the one time in our lives when we’ll have all of our favourite people in one place.
After that, I’ve got some big goals. I changed my coach earlier this year, and I really feel that my best years haven’t happened yet. I’m hungrier this year than I’ve been in a few years. I’m excited and I’m ready to take the struggles that come with that, the ups and downs, just to see how much better I can get. I’m very excited for the future. I’ve got a great team behind me. I’m very fortunate about that because I think creating that team is the hardest thing to do. So I feel like good things are going to happen.
Who are you sponsored by and what are your favourite items of kit?
I’m sponsored by ellesse. What I love about the brand is that they’re very modern. One of the first things I said when I met them is that if I walked off the golf course to meet friends for drinks, they wouldn’t know that I play golf. I think the joggers are an incredible piece in their new collection, and I think the hoodies are game-changers – everyone’s going for the hoodies. I’m extremely happy with everything ellesse have done – they’ve listened to my opinion, and they’ve been brave enough to trust me on a whim with no design experience. I think it’s been a great partnership. I get asked pretty much every week what my clothing is, and I think that’s a compliment in itself.