Keeping it in the family

Florida transfer makes UK golf a mother-daughter affair

One special waiver request, denial, appeal and chance phone call later, marketing junior Mallory Blackwelder began the transition from one Southeastern Conference school to another.

As a standout athlete on the University of Florida’s golf team, Mallory Blackwelder never thought about playing for UK’s golf team during her college years.

Even when her mother, Myra Blackwelder, a former UK great, was named as UK’s head coach, Mallory still figured she would remain at Florida.

“When my mom got the job, we talked about me applying, but I didn’t think that I would transfer,” Mallory said.

The SEC almost placed her arrival at UK on an indefinite delay because of a rule stating that a student transferring from one SEC school to another must sit out a year before playing. Since Myra would be coaching her daughter if Mallory transferred, the mother and daughter requested a special waiver from the SEC.

The SEC originally denied the request, and after an appeal, the Blackwelders didn’t receive a response.

With two weeks left before classes started at both UK and Florida, Sandy Bell, the compliance director at UK Athletics, called the SEC about another athlete. The SEC then told Bell that Mallory, winner of the Women’s Western Golf Association National Amateur Championship and recipient of two SEC Academic Honor Roll awards, could play her first year at UK.

The news was a relief to Mallory, who believes her golfing skills will continue to improve as she returns to her mother’s watch.

The Blackwelders, who both live in Versailles, Ky., said they spend the majority of their time on the golf course instead doing typical mother-daughter activities like shopping at the mall or going out for lunch.

“My mom is not much of a shopper,” Mallory said with a laugh. “She tries to stay away from the stores as much as possible.”

While Myra was on tour as a professional golfer for the LPGA, and her daughter  began competing in tournaments, the Blackwelders traveled together frequently.

As a result, Myra was able to work with her daughter as a swing coach and share her personal experience. During her playing career, Myra Blackwelder won 10 invitational titles and two Kentucky State Amateur Championships as a part of UK’s first varsity women’s golf team from 1975-78.

The time they spent together helped fuel Mallory Blackwelder’s desire to golf. Despite being around the sport year-round, as a child, she was not hooked right away.

“I grew up on it,” Mallory said, “but I was never really interested until I was 11.”

It was not until Mallory was about 13 years old that she took a real interest in playing in school and professionally.

When she watched Duke University’s Jenny Chuasiriporn nearly win the U.S. Open Championship as a college student in 1998, Mallory became intrigued with her potential to succeed in the game.

Since then, golf has increasingly brought the mother and daughter together.

The best bonding experience for the two came when Mallory won the Kentucky State High School Tournament her senior year at Woodford County High School, Mallory said. It was an honor her mother shared years earlier.

“It was the first time a mother and daughter won the tournament,” Mallory said. “She was crying after I won, and I was crying. It was a special moment for my family. It was cool that it happened that way.”

The Blackwelders hope to share more success in their first year at UK together.

As a transfer, Mallory has additional challenges to face. Though she isn’t worried about her teammates view of her as the coach’s daughter, Mallory is still unfamiliar with many things about UK.

“I feel like a freshman again,” Mallory said. “I don’t know everybody.”

At Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart’s annual meeting with every athlete, Mallory said she looked around and saw unfamiliar faces. At Florida, she knew many people, but right now she only knows a few at UK, and one of those is her mother.

Mallory said she’s embracing her new surroundings one step at a time.

“Golf is a long process of involvement,” Myra Blackwelder said. “It takes a lifetime. Not much can be defined easily.”