It’s difficult to truly get to know pro golfers. Who are they at their core? When it comes to LPGA star Morgan Pressel, look to her friends for salient clues.
“Everybody talks about Morgan the golfer, but what she does off the golf course is by far more impressive,” says Paula Creamer.
“Morgan’s used tragedy in her life to create something incredible. She’s literally saving the lives of so many women,” adds Brooke Henderson.
Seventeen years ago, Pressel lost her mom, Kathy, to breast cancer, and not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about her. But she’s been able to turn family misfortune into help for others. The annual Morgan & Friends Fight Cancer tournament, held in January at St. Andrews CC in Pressel’s hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., has raised more than $9.5 million. The money has been used, in part, to establish the Morgan Pressel Center for Cancer Genetics and to finance a mobile lab that aids in combating the disease.
We sat down with the 31-year-old, two-time LPGA winner to talk about her philanthropic work and her mother, who shaped the woman Morgan Pressel has become and still strives to be.
Your mom passed away in 2003, when you were 15 and she was just 39. Tell us about her.
A lot of people say that we’re similar. She was just a very strong woman. Even when she was sick, she never wanted anybody to feel bad for her or even to really understand what was going on. She put on such a brave face. Through everything she went through, she was still the hardest worker that I know. She was a Type A personality, and she passed that trait down to me.
How much of knowing what drove her, in turn, drives you?
You know, she’s always there. And, in general, she’s the reason why I’m here. So many things can happen in life. You never know if your body will hold up, if your golf skills will hold up. But I know that my charitable foundation is something that will be very important to me forever. That, and the fight against breast cancer. Our mission is to make it so other young families don’t have to go through what we did.
You’re very hands-on with your foundation. You could just hand over a check, and it would still be well beyond what most people give. Why do you do more?
I like to see it. You can make a donation and never really know where it goes. Playing a part in launching the [Kathryn Krickstein Pressel] MammoVan, which travels around South Florida and gives women the chance to get a mammogram, is very rewarding.
Tell me more about the van.
It’s become the benchmark for vans like it around the South Florida area. The inside of the van looks exactly like the exam room at a hospital. It provides the same feel and comfort but without having to go to the hospital. Since its inception in 2010, it has provided more than 15,000 screenings. I was at an event once with the van, and this woman walked out in tears. She was an employee of where the event was taking place and she had a friend on each arm. I was kind of confused for a minute, until I found out that she was 53 years old and had never had a mammogram. I bet you that if it wasn’t for the van being there, and her friends asking her when her last mammogram was, she might have never gotten it done. Early detection is the key to fighting breast cancer, and the van makes that possible for many women.
Along with your family and the Boca Raton community, your LPGA friends work hard to support your charity tournament. This year, Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lincicome, Gerina Piller and a bunch of others joined in. How much does that mean to you?
To see them — those girls — here every year is amazing. They actually make this an important part of their calendars. They’re incredible golfers, but they’re better people. They come here out of the goodness of their heart to support what we’re doing. I think the LPGA, especially, is a very special organization and is very philanthropic across the board. Golf is naturally that way — it’s a very giving league. But then these ladies take it to a whole other level. And it’s awesome.