Most students dream of a summer filled with leisure, sun and surf to recuperate after a semester of work and studies. Meghan MacLaren isn’t most students. She would rather do something more constructive with her time – like winning.
MacLaren, who hails from the United Kingdom and is coming off a successful freshman year with the FIU women’s golf squad, is competing in several tournaments back home. And she got off to a good start.
On May 29, she won the Irish Women’s Open Amateur championship by a single stroke in her first competition of the summer. In addition, MacLaren, along with two other English golfers, helped England win the tournament’s Nations Cup.
“Winning the Irish was massive for me,” MacLaren said. “It’s the first national title I’ve won, so I think it’s proved to a lot of people, including myself, exactly what I can do. It’s nice that it happened so quickly.”
After a strong performance in the first two rounds, tallying a one under par score of 71 in the opening round that morning and a one over par score of 73 in the the afternoon, MacLaren put a three-stroke gap between herself and the rest of the field heading in the final round the following day.
It was a familiar position to be in for MacLaren, who converted a number of quick starts into victories in her first year at FIU.
“In America, my wins tended to come from a leading position early on,” MacLaren said. “That definitely helped me in this event because I’ve been in that position before. I am better able to handle it.”
FIU women’s golf coach Joe Vogel added, “It’s pretty amazing for her to go back home and get a win right away. It’s a tribute to her short game and her mental game. Once she jumps out ahead she’s very good at holding on to those leads.”
A win like this on the international stage is also huge boost for the women’s golf program in terms of developing a recruiting approach that transcends borders.
“Your best recruiters are your players and for players to win those kind of events is a big plus,” Vogel said. “It’s great for the program.”
MacLaren’s win comes off an impressive freshman year at FIU, which she points to as a key part in her preparedness for this tournament and others that she will be competing in throughout the summer.
“Without a doubt, being at FIU played a part in me winning,” MacLaren noted. “I learned how to be a better tournament player in my time out there, and winning tournaments on the college circuit has definitely given me more confidence.”
When she arrived on campus last fall for her first semester, her impact on the green was felt immediately. In her collegiate debut, she finished tied for the lowest score among all golfers in the Wolverine Invitational. And things only went up from there for the freshman standout.
MacLaren played a leading role in lifting the Panthers into the NCAA Regionals, delivering her best performance of the season in the Sun Belt Women’s Golf Conference Championship in April. She finished the three-round tournament with a score of 212, good for four under par, to help the Panthers secure the conference championship and individual medalist honors.
“Her competitiveness really stands out,” Vogel noted. “She’s not bothered by other players and that’s a big part of being successful. She’s got many things going her way.”
For MacLaren, the team’s accomplishments, as well as her own, are a testament of Vogel’s coaching. And being a part of a team in a sport that is very individualistic in nature has been rewarding.
“Any success we have individually or as a team comes back to him,” MacLaren said of Vogel. “I made friendships I know I’ll never lose with some of my teammates, too. Being part of a team can be an amazing experience at times.”
The postseason awards and accolades came rushing in for MacLaren, who won the 2013 SBC Freshman of the Year award along with a spot on the 2013 SBC Women’s Golf All-Conference First Team and the All-Tournament Team.
The acclaim coming from the conference came with little surprise, especially since MacLaren led the Sun Belt with a 73.9 stroke average and three individual medalist honors.
MacLaren also did well in the classroom. An English major, she completed her freshman year with a 3.38 GPA and takes pride in her role as a scholar-athlete.
“It’s important to make good grades because as a student-athlete you are representing the school in both aspects,” she said.
MacLaren will return to the green on June 12 for the British Open Amateur Championship at Machynys Peninsula. Another strong showing could help her pick up a spot on the England squad for the European Ladies’ Team Championship.
When MacLaren and the rest of her teammates return to campus in the fall for a new semester and season, they will be competing in Conference USA for the first time, representing a significant change for the entire program. But that hasn’t stopped MacLaren from raising her own expectations.
“It would be great if we could show what we’re capable of by winning in a new conference and advancing to regionals again,” MacLaren said. “It’s my goal to make it to nationals, and there’s no reason we can’t do that as a team.”