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Paula Creamer balances motherhood and golf on the LPGA Tour

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BRADENTON, Florida − After finishing practice on Wednesday, Paula Creamer, professional golfer, morphed into Paula Creamer, full-time mom, picking up 2-year-old daughter Hilton Rose from area daycare.

Creamer, 37 years old, has to juggle two demanding jobs: professional golfer and full-time mom. She is also trying to climb back up to the top of the LPGA Mountain.

“Everybody out here is really good,” Creamer said, “and trying to balance being a mom, all of that, it’s hard. I’ve really had to buckle down and say, ‘Paula, you’re going to have to work two times harder than they are because I’ve got other things that I have to do.’”

At one time, the former IMG Academy student breathed that mountain’s rarified air. Creamer finished fourth in four of the 27 events she entered in 2008, and placed second in one. In 2009, she twice finished second in 20 events played and tied for third at the Women’s British Open. In 2010, Creamer won her only major, the U.S. Women’s Open. She reached a ranking of No. 2 in the Women’s World Golf Rankings.

But in the ensuing years, Creamer won just once, the HSBC Women’s Champions event in 2014. The number of tournaments played and the number of cuts made decreased. Injuries to her thumb and wrist forced her to miss all of the 2020 season. Creamer competed in seven tournaments and only made it to the finals once in 2021.

Creamer was forced to take maternity leave once again. Creamer returned to the scene in mid-2022 and made two cuts from five tournaments. Last year the golfer who ranked 19th overall on the LPGA money list for career earnings with more that $12 million missed out on 11 of the 13 tournaments she entered. She ended 2023 ranked as 872nd in world.

Paula Creamer of Pleasanton (Calif.) waves to the crowd at the 2023 Kroger Queen City Championship, held at Kenwood Country Club, Madeira, Ohio on Thursday, September 7, 2023.

But Creamer wasn’t prepared to hang up her spikes and devote herself to being a full-time mother, as evidenced by her appearance at the LPGA Drive On Championship. Her first round, a 1-over 72, tied for 58th, hardly was vintage Paula Creamer, but if it serves as a first step back up that LPGA mountain, the player nicknamed “The Pink Panther’ will take it.

“I love playing golf,” she said. “I love competing. I want to be the best. It’s been a very tough 4-5 years for me. Everything in my life has changed, but I’m learning how to figure it all out. Last year, I felt like a novice with my daughter out there. Everything has been a challenge and these girls are great. Everyone out here is very good. I’ve made a very big effort in putting in the time and the work ethic into my offseason.

“I’m not ready to retire by any means. I love what I’m doing. But it’s very difficult to play bad golf, I will say that. I never had to deal with that in my earlier career. It makes me want go back to the place I used to be. . . I’ll never be (the younger Paula Creamer). I’m a different person. But I’m a different person. I want to compete. I want to appear on TV. I want to show my daughter that you can be a role model … but I want to do it for myself. I want to prove to myself that I can do it.”

Creamer had to do more than just wish for it to happen. She gained weight and muscle while completely reworking her swing. Creamer’s 5-foot-9 frame was not enough to compete against the younger, longer-hitting Tour players. She needed to use her entire body in her swing.

“Swinging hard and missing the fairway is, like, OK,” she said. “When I was taught, it wasn’t OK to miss the fairway. Now it doesn’t matter where it goes. It’s hard to overcome that mentality. But I’ve gained 3 miles-per-hour on my club speed and I’m 37. I’ve gained weight. I’m doing the things that I can that I have to use to go against these younger girls and play.”

Creamer applied self-pressure after remembering the player that she once was. She’s set to tee off for the second round of the LPGA’s Drive On at 8:09 a.m., and sits right near the projected cutline before the day begins,

“It’s hard to channel that nervous energy in a different way,” she said. “This year we put a lot of time into it mentally, and I want to be the best golfer I can be and the best mother I can be, and they go hand in hand.

“I’m not out here just to be a name in the field. I’d never play if I didn’t think I could win. I’m not just here to be on the LPGA Tour. I’m out here to win.”

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