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September 26, 2017

Meg Mallon

St. Augustine, Florida

TY VOTAW: Good evening. One of the greatest honors and pleasures of my life is the honor and pleasure of being able to introduce to you this evening the owner of that crinkly, beautiful and sparkling smile you saw so many times on that video and the first inductee into the legendary Class of 2017 for the World Golf Hall of Fame. Her family and closest friends know her name as Margaret Mary Elizabeth Mallon, and now you do, too.

Golf fans the world over have come to love and know her as the one and only great, great Ms. Meg Mallon.

MEG MALLON: Full disclosure, I'm a mess, so just hang in there with me, guys. Ooh, that was pretty good. That was great, Ty. I should have just left at the video. That was beautiful.

Let me begin by thanking Ty for his kind words and comments. When I asked Ty to be my presenter, I knew that he would capture the essence of my career, my family, and the many people who helped me get here, and he certainly did that very eloquently. Thank you, Ty, for tonight and for the special friendship we have shared for more than 25 years.

So I actually would like to start the evening asking my family and friends to please stand for a moment.

So I may be the one standing up here, but I made it because of the love, support and encouragement you all provided me on my journey to this moment. I want to congratulate my fellow inductees, Davis, Lorena and Ian, as well as Sir Henry Longhurst's family, I'm very proud to be inducted with you and to share the memories we will always carry with us from this evening.

So it may surprise some of you that golf was not my first passion in sports. As a young girl growing up in Detroit, I admired Babe Didrikson, and I devoured every book I could read about her. I dreamed of being an Olympic athlete like Babe because I thought that was the only path available for a girl to compete. Thanks to Title IX, for me I played little league baseball, I swam, played tennis, basketball, while also taking up golf.

Back to Detroit for a moment, although I was born in Boston, got to remember that, I was raised in Detroit. So to be perfectly clear about my loyalties, I am a Celtics, Red Sox, Red Wings, Lions and Tigers fan, and of course, a Buckeye for life.

Can I get an I-O?

There are three things that are a part of everyday life for the Mallons. We love sports, we love music, and we all have a great sense of humor. As the youngest of six children, I was blessed to grow up with siblings who included me in the sports they played and gave me the chance to try them all. Back in those days, girls were not recruited for high school sports, but Our Lady of Mercy High School had a basketball team. And they asked if I would consider leaving the public school system to pay for an education at an all-girls' Catholic high school. Fortunately my parents took a deep breath and made it happen. I mean, I was the youngest of six.

So that is why I am so comfortable wearing this fabulous blue blazer and gray slacks. Give me a uniform any day.

But back to Mercy, where during the time I was playing basketball, my mother Marian, a role model for the ages, teamed up with another mom and started a girls' golf club so some of us would have a chance to compete in high school state tournaments. I'm proud to say that our loosely gathered team managed to finish second in the state my senior year. Now today, Mercy High School, they have junior varsity and varsity girls golf teams that trace their beginnings back to that time my mother organized, and there's my coach, those teams.

I also wanted to mention during those years that a great foundation of my golf swing came about through the help of Paul Van Loosen and Elmer Priestcorn, and I want to thank them for their help early on in my career.

So most of the sports genes passed on to all of us Mallon siblings probably came from my mom, who won the Oregon state tennis championship when she was 16 years old. She was later offered a college scholarship, but sadly her parents did not let her take it because she needed to get a job to help with the family finances. She never got a chance to realize her dream of a college education, but she made sure we all did. She was a consummate sports mom, always in the background encouraging us, guiding us, and providing opportunities for us to succeed.

Without her gentle hand nudging me along towards my athletic goals, tonight would not have been possible.

So after four fabulous years at Mercy High School, I received a scholarship offer from Michigan State, but I persuaded my parents to let me walk on at Ohio State. Their facilities were the best in the country. Right, Jack? And while I loved Michigan State, I knew that Ohio State was where I could improve my game the most. I wanted to play golf for the Buckeyes like Jack Nicklaus, Joey Sindelar and Tom Weiskopf had before me. I walked on as a freshman and earned a full ride by my senior year.

So as I zeroed in on a career in golf, a life-changing moment came in the form of teaching professional Mike McGetrick. Before I met Mike I was not exactly a world beater. I had just lost my card. Mike, he taught me how to practice effectively instead of just beating golf balls. He gave me the tools I needed to fine-tune my game and he unleashed the inner athlete in me. This is truly when I fell in love with the game of golf. We made a great team, Mike. I can't thank you enough. I'm not sure where you are. But thank you so much.

So as a part of the team thematic, I was blessed to win with four caddies, three of which are here with us tonight, but I've got to start with Sonja Steptoe, because I promise you, no other player in this room can share this story. At the start of the 1991 season, I did not have a steady caddie. So the LPGA asked me if I would consider using a reporter from Sports Illustrated who wanted a first-hand experience at what being a caddie entailed. I said yes.

So fast forward to the Oldsmobile tournament in Florida where Sonja and I met up for her to carry my bag. That's when I found out she had never played golf, much less carried a professional bag, and of course typical of Florida tournaments, we had 25 mile-an-hour winds, rain delays, everything else Mother Nature could throw at us. Patiently I walked her through every round, helping her understand the protocol of caddying.

I have to admit I was overwhelmed and distracted all week. Well, guess what; that distraction led to Sonja and me teaming up for my first-ever LPGA win. When I edged by Betsy King and Dana Dormann during a weather-delayed Monday finish, of course. So I was so exhausted from the long week and weather that I got so sick that I had to withdraw from the next week's event. Sonja had no problem with that. She's like, hey, I got my story, and that's it.

So ironically Dana and John Dormann decided it wasn't a good idea for their marriage for the caddie partnership to continue, so John became my caddie. And he was instrumental in helping me win two majors later that year as well as other tournaments over the next seven-to-eight years.

So I guess an LPGA husband as a caddie was a winning formula for me, so after John came another successful partnership with Denise Killeen's other half, also named John, that delivered two more majors and more tournament wins. And also Tommy Thorpe was another caddie I won with, and although he could not join us tonight, I want to thank him, Sonja, and the two Johns for their commitment, support and advice over the years. I share this honor with you as much as I share many great memories of our times together inside the ropes. Thanks, guys.

I feel like Marco Rubio. Excuse me a second. Sorry. Hopefully, it was more graceful.

I spoke earlier about Babe and my Olympic dreams. I experienced my own version of the Olympic competition courtesy of the Solheim family and the Solheim Cup. Both as a player and captain, the years I represented my country on those teams were some of the most enduring and deeply touching memories I will always have from participating in a team environment, and I have the Solheim family to thank for that, so thank you, John, and the whole family.

So it's not a team, it's an organization. And it's one that I will always cherish as yet another family, the LPGA family. When I joined the LPGA 30 years ago, I was blessed to win and play with founders, champions, and players from around the world. I loved the era I played in. The staff and players really were a family, traversing the world together, united in a common goal, to grow our Tour and bound together by challenges we all faced. Like it was not unheard of to be able to play a golf course but not be allowed to use the clubhouse facilities, and it's also true I was kicked off a practice facility, not because I was a woman but because I was an LPGA player.

It seemed like we were constantly being told what we were not rather than what we were. What we are, the best damn female golfers in the world who have persevered and are better for it. Right?

Yes, we had some difficult times, but as I stand here and think of our future and the generation of players to come, I could not be more proud of the LPGA, everything we stand for, and everyone who is a part of this family. So I've talked a lot about people who have been instrumental in my career success, but now I want to mention the person who has been with me for the most fulfilling journey of my life. Beth and I are celebrating 25 years together later this year, and while we have endured challenges -- it's not easy, is it -- - while we have endured challenges along the way, I am so grateful and lucky to have this amazing woman by my side. She has taught me so much. And a large part of making our journey easier was the respect the golf media has shown us by not making our relationship their headlines. We have built a great rapport with the golf media over the years, founded on mutual respect, and they have been for the most part very fair and accurate in their coverage.

I was taught early in my career, actually by Betsy King, to recognize and appreciate the role that golf media plays in our lives. It's about being accessible and allowing them the ability to shape their stories to convey to all of you. This is especially true of the core group of media that cover us on a weekly basis. They are good people who understand and care about the LPGA and do a great job of bringing our stories to our fans.

So now I sucked up to the media, I'm good. (Laughter.)

I want to thank the World Golf Hall of Fame members and committee for honoring my career tonight. My thanks to the founders, players, caddies, media, sponsors and LPGA staff in attendance, as well as all of those who traveled near and far to join my family for this celebration. And I want to have a special thanks to Ana Leaird, who has helped me get through this evening, hopefully.

I've always believed hard work is essential to success, right, but equally as important as the effort is celebrating the accomplishments, and I assure you the entire Mallon family is Hall of Fame caliber when it comes to celebrations, so we're going to be good. Especially when I'm done with this thing.

So while this has all been beyond my expectations and dreams, if there's any regret it is only that my mom, dad and sister Tricia are not here to share it with us. But my faith comforts me to know they are at peace and watching over us.

So as I think about my childhood, I remember that even though we were members of a country club, there were days during the week where I could not practice or play there, so I improvised by hitting balls against the white brick wall of my Detroit home with some bricks protruding, others embedded. I remember the hours I spent chipping with my wedge, focusing on hitting the bricks that were sticking out so that ball would bounce straight back to me. My mind was filled with dreams of being a professional athlete. That young girl stands in front of you tonight humble but bursting with pride about being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Thank you so much.

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