Sponsors' backing keeps my Solheim Cup dream alive, says Stephanie Meadow
Stephanie Meadow knows she has the talent to mix it with the top women in the game but admits that her dreams of Major glory and Solheim Cup joy with Europe are only underpinned by significant financial backing.
To the outside world her place on the Ladies' PGA tour would appear lucrative and a golden tipped experience as she hops on one plane after another to the latest destination for her golfing journey. But Meadow, who has had a mixed year on Tour, has revealed the extent to which such an image is far from the reality of her profession.
Having returned to the main Tour at the start of the year, Meadow has enjoyed once again going up against the best in the world, two years on from losing her card on the back of the heartache of the death of her father.
Victory at the inaugural ISPS Handa World Invitational event at Galgorm last month and the delight at Europe's weekend victory over the USA in the Solheim Cup have only helped to compound her desire to push harder for more success.
The 27-year-old from Jordanstown says that can only happen with the continued support of her main sponsors Investec and ATA.
"Golf on the women's Tour is very different to other sports where you sign a contract and away you go and play. I have to take care of everything, from flights to hotels, coaching fees, caddie fees, everything - and that's not easy," said Meadow.
"I would say that being on Tour costs around $125,000 (£100,000) per year and the only way that is manageable is through sponsorship so that's why I'm unbelievably thankful to Investec and ATA because the bottom line is that without them I would have to find a normal job.
"Golf can be a brutal sport, one minute you're not quite on your game and it hurts. Midway through the season I missed six cuts by a couple of shots and that means no money, so to have this backing does alleviate the stress.
"Whether it's the men or the women, the main money earned often comes in a short period of five or six tournaments when your game clicks. The win for me at Galgorm meant a lot and I'm very thankful that even when I did lose my card my sponsors stuck with me. I owe them everything, really. They allow me to strive for my dreams, that's the reality."
One of those moments she seeks to cherish is being part of a Solheim Cup side and Meadow is already casting her eye upon a blue and yellow outfit two years from now.
Sunday's momentous victory, with Suzann Pettersen capping the win over the States with the final putt of her career, was as compelling for Meadow as for any of those who witnessed the triumph - even if she did miss the incredible climax.
"I watched it for as long as I could but I had a meeting scheduled that I had to attend so I watched the highlights and it really was exhilarating," added Meadow, a member of two Curtis Cup teams in 2012 and 2014.
"It was great to see Europe triumph but regardless of who won it was a great moment for women's golf. The Solheim Cup has always been one of my goals and I would love to be on the team in two years' time.
"People like Bronte Law and Charley Hull were on Curtis Cup teams with me and when you're on a team like that there are lasting bonds. It's a great experience because we are usually just out there playing for ourselves.
"It certainly adds to my belief that I can be part of a Solheim team when I see those guys competing for Europe."
Hull was one of those challengers whom she had to fend off on her way to the Galgorm triumph, which Meadow insists will always have a special place in her heart.
"That was fantastic. I couldn't think of a better place to win with everybody cheering for you. It was a very special feeling. To have so many friends, family and people from other golf clubs there backing me was amazing.
"It did bring another bit of pressure, there was an extra nervousness because you feel that you're playing for them rather than just yourself like it usually is on tour. But it's something that you can use to your advantage and I think I did that.
"Beating someone like Charley Hull to the title was good for my confidence and getting the win just makes me want more moments like that."