By: Charles Dillahunt, PGA of America Inclusion & Diversity; Originally posted on PGA.com
Professional athletes have long been known to possess the ability to use their platform to speak out on social issues that affect their communities. LPGA star Mel Reid, originally of Derby, England, serves as an example of an athlete who has used this stage to steer positive change against intolerance, injustice and discrimination.
During her eight-year run on the European Tour, Reid was able to rack up six wins, while also becoming a three-time member of the European Solheim Cup team. As an established name in the golf industry and a LPGA Tour Member, Reid’s life took an impactful turn last December, when she both publicly announced that she was gay and also became an Ambassador for Athlete Ally, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.
“Being myself and using my platform to hopefully impact lives by telling my story is what I hope to accomplish,” said Reid. “If one girl or boy can look up and see I’m just being myself and say, ‘Look, Mel can do it, so can I,’ then, that’s all I can ask for.”
“You reach a point in your life where you realize, as a professional athlete, that you have a unique opportunity to speak up about serious matters that affect a lot of people,” said Reid. “People take their lives over LGBTQ+ discrimination, so this is my way of giving back and hopefully helping to prevent that from happening in the future.”
Fearful she’d lose out on sponsorships and other opportunities in the golf industry, Reid kept her personal life and sexual orientation private for years, until she realized that trying to be someone other than herself was detrimental to her happiness and success as a professional golfer.
“I began to see the discrimination negatively affecting my friends and I,” added Reid. “For example, as soon as I became comfortable enough to mention to a potential sponsor that my roommate was actually my girlfriend instead of just a roommate, I’d never hear from that company again.”
“You have to work on being yourself, just like you have to work on your golf game. If everyone was more comfortable with themselves—not just with their sexuality, but in all facets of their lives—the world would be a better place. I believe that is really important.”
Reid’s decision to come out publicly elicited plenty of positive opinions from fans and LPGA Tour players alike. Yet, she was finally able to do something that Reid holds near and dear to her heart—tell her story to the world, so that others can follow in her footsteps and be more comfortable in their own skin.
“Since I’ve come out, the reaction has been more positive than I could have imagined, and I’ve actually had more genuine interest from sponsors,” she explained. “I’ve also learned the importance of having the right companies represent me that align best with what I stand for, because I know I’m not the stereotypical golfer, and I’ll never try to be something I’m not again.”
Golf is for Everyone
Reid has a tremendous appreciation for the game.
“I enjoy how close golf is to real life,” she said. “It makes you vulnerable, highlights your weaknesses, and it also doesn’t owe you anything, so you have to work really hard to get better at it. When you accomplish something in golf, it makes you feel a euphoria that’s similar to what you feel when you reach a goal in your personal life.”
“It’s a great activity for kids, especially, because it teaches them discipline, etiquette, sportsmanship and courtesy. I learned a tremendous amount about myself through golf early-on in life that I also use off the course. You have to be honest, because if you aren’t, you’re only cheating yourself. It forces you to think about yourself, and what you’re doing, while playing the game.”
Reid didn’t become a professional golfer without being one of the hardest workers in the room, something she emphasizes in her favorite guiding principle.
“I have a quote that I’ve always believed in: ‘If you work easy, your life will be hard; and if you work hard, your life will be easy,’” said Reid. “That’s important to remember, because if you really want something, you’ll work hard to get it, which takes having confidence and believing in yourself. I want equality, and I’ll always fight for it, because it’s crucial for the people who come after me in the golf industry and elsewhere. I have to be the change I hope to see, especially in this industry.”
Throughout Pride month, the PGA of America and Athlete Ally will be celebrating the diversity of the golf community through a content partnership that highlights LGBTQ golfers and professionals. Please stay tuned to our websites and social channels to read the full series of stories.