As part of Women and Girls’ Golf Week we look back at Meghan MacLaren’s headline-grabbing performance in the inaugural Jordan Mixed Open presented by Ayla…
In April of this year, the week before Tiger Woods’ epic win at the Masters Tournament, Meghan MacLaren was at the other end of the world — over 10,000 km away — ready to make her own impact on the sport.
The inaugural Jordan Mixed Open presented by Ayla brought together players from the men’s, women’s and senior games, and pit them against each other in one remarkable tournament.
Of the 66 players to make the level par cut, 20 were from the Ladies European Tour, 21 were from the over-50s Staysure Tour and 25 came from the European Challenge Tour.
More astonishing still, the leading group to tee off in the final round was comprised of MacLaren, a two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, Daan Huizing, a three-time Challenge Tour winner, and Paul Streeter, a two-time Staysure Tour winner.
The spotlight that final day, was always going to be on MacLaren, a rising star, who had established herself as a vocal advocate for the strength of the women’s game.
Prior to the event, MacLaren wrote: “Men’s and women’s golf can exist alongside each other and be equally as entertaining, as demanding, and as dramatic.”
MacLaren delivered on all three promises. In the opening round, she rang off eight birdies and signed for a 65.
“If I’m going to write about it and talk about it all the time, then I’d better back it up with my golf,” she said of her first round. “I’m delighted to do it in this tournament, particularly. Hopefully it will send a bit of a message.”
As if she still had a point to prove, MacLaren went bogey-free on the second day as she carded her second-consecutive seven under par 65, which gave her a two-shot lead heading into the final round.
“I’m proud of the position all three Tours have put themselves in, and proud for golf as a whole for this tournament,” she noted after her second round. “This shows that women’s golf has more than a leg to stand on, and if I can prove a point in that regard, then that’s an added bonus.”
With the weight of the world on her shoulders, the 24-year-old carded four birdies on her first seven holes to expand her lead to five with only nine holes to play.
Golf, however, can have a bittersweet way of treating every player equally, and no one is exempt from the cruelty it can impart. Just ask Huizing, who had a European Tour card ripped from his hands on the 71st hole of the Challenge Tour Grand Final last year.
A bogey-double bogey start to MacLaren’s final nine opened the door for Huizing, who seized the opportunity with three quick birdies to take the lead as he and MacLaren went shot for shot down the home-stretch in a battle the golfing world had never witnessed before.
Ultimately, Huizing prevailed to become the inaugural Jordan Mixed Open champion. Despite the agonising runner-up finish, MacLaren emerged from signing her scorecard as a champion in her own right.
With astounding class, she faced the media who were eager for her to make sense of what had just transpired.
“Golf happened,” she explained. “I missed a couple of putts, which doesn’t help, and I hit a couple of bad shots at bad times. You can’t afford to do things like that. It can change so quickly and everyone who plays golf knows that.
“It hurts to not win, but I know, when I get home and think about it, I’ll be proud of what I’ve done this week and I hope that I’ve represented women’s golf in general as well as possible. It deserves a bit of a spotlight and if this kicks things up a bit, then I’m proud of what’s happened.”
It is often said that golf does not build character, but rather, reveals it. MacLaren revealed her exemplary character as well as her sporting class with how she conducted herself, while her honesty put everything into context.
Before the Jordan Mixed Open, she promised the week would be entertaining, demanding and dramatic. It was. And it opened the world of golf to new possibilities.
The fact she could go toe to toe with a field of professionals that featured Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup greats — golfers who play the game in completely different ways — validated her own ability, and the entire women’s game.
Months on from the historic event, the golfing landscape continues to change. Critics can no longer question the bravery, class or quality on display in the women’s game, and MacLaren for her part, is no longer just another golfer.
She has become a golfer who is also a leader of her peers, one who can always look back to an historic performance in an historic event and be, in her own words, “proud of how I represented the women’s game.”
To relive the historic battle down the stretch, from the two players who were part of it, click here for the European Tour’s Race to Dubai podcast, where MacLaren and Huizing share their personal stories from the Jordan Mixed Open.