Why new mom Paula Creamer is more motivated than ever to make a run at the LPGA’s young guns
Long ago, the Pink Panther proved she was a winner. Her most recent prize? Motherhood. A new beginning. And now, at 36, the chance to make a run at the LPGA’s young guns. (This interview was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of GOLF.)
On the phone from her home at Isleworth, just outside of Orlando, Fla.
Dylan Dethier: I’m told you once came to the GOLF offices, set up a 70-foot putt through the cubicles and made it first try. Is that true?
Paula Creamer: It’s true! It was right after Singapore [in 2014, where she made a 70-footer to win], and we went to the offices, which was actually really cool because we normally don’t get to see that side of golf. The staff was like, “Let’s reenact the putt!” So we put a little cup down at the end of the hall. It was so cool — everybody was looking over their cubicles, and there it went. That was fun.
DD: Before this summer, you hadn’t made a start on the LPGA Tour in over a year. You’re now engaged. Your daughter, Hilton, is not quite a year old yet. This feels like a time of serious change for you. How have you made the decision, health-wise and career-wise, to get back out there?
PC: A lot has definitely changed. My time management has had to get good very quickly to be able to make time for golf. But my body feels really good. I feel strong. I’ve been working hard on my game and everything around it. The first month or two after Hilton was born, I was like, How in the world does anybody do this? There’s just no way I can manage all of it. But my family and [fiancé] Shane’s family all got together. They’ve really helped me be able to focus on my golf when it’s golf time. When I come home, I’m a mom. I’m not Paula Creamer anymore. But it’s definitely not a lie when they say it takes a village.
DD: How has motherhood impacted your practice schedule? I’m sure you have to set different boundaries.
PC: I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and finding the right time in your career to do that is very difficult, especially when you’re an athlete. I mean, any time I’ve ever come back from anything, it’s been an injury. This was very different. There’s a little human being involved. I had to tell myself that, okay, Hilton’s fine. It’s okay that I’m out here practicing. She’s being taken care of.
I’m going up against a lot of girls who all they do is eat, sleep and play golf. I was them. I did that.
DD: How do you figure out this stuff ? Do you lean on other people who’ve gone through it? Do you just work it out on the fly? Are there other moms on the LPGA Tour who’ve been helpful?
PC: It’s kind of like golf — something that might work for somebody doesn’t work for somebody else. But you want to pick everybody’s brain, so I’ve asked my two close friends, Brittany Lincicome and Brittany Lang, what it’s like out on tour [with a kid] and what to expect. I pick their brains a lot on little things — just stuff that you don’t ever really know unless you have a child. The rest of it is my close circle. I talk a lot with Shane about my expectations and goals. I have to be realistic, but, at the same time, I don’t want to be just a name out there. I want to be able to compete. And I wouldn’t want to waste my time, my coach’s time or anybody else’s time if I wasn’t 100 percent invested. That was big, because I’m going up against a lot of girls who all they do is eat, sleep and play golf. I was them. I did that. I wouldn’t say it’s an easier world, but there are definitely a lot less distractions.
DD: I’m curious about the swing-specific changes you’ve been trying to make, because every golfer at every level can understand that trade-off: Do I stick with what I’ve got and just try to play my best, or do I overhaul to try to get better?
PC: Well, I started working with [former PGA Tour pro] Grant Waite in September 2021, even though I was five-and-a-half-months pregnant. Grant is a member at Isleworth, and I see him out here all the time. I knew that I needed to pick up distance and speed if I wanted to be able to compete against these girls. I asked him what he thought. Like, “Is this feasible?” And he goes, “Yeah, we have some time.” So we broke down my whole swing, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. I don’t think I’ve ever known my golf swing as well as I do now. Now, it’s just about taking it from the range and doing it under pressure.
DD: What happens when you’re trying to bring it from the range into competition?
PC: It’s really easy to revert to your old habits, to go back to, Well, I’ve done this so many times under pressure. Why would I not want to do it now? You have to overcome that stuff mentally.
DD: Grant has helped you gain extra swing speed. Where did it come from?
PC: Using my body, for one. Without even going in the gym, it was just learning how to use my legs, use the ground, use my feet. Figuring out how to use as much energy as I possibly can. At first, it was weird. Like, if you look at girl golfers’ swings, you think: elegant, smooth. But they’re getting stronger and stronger all the time, even if they don’t look like Rory or Bryson. With Grant, he said, “Hit it hard!” Like, “Make a noise! Grunt!” And I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Paula, yes, you’ve got to do it.” So I think it was just getting out of my comfort zone — that was a big part of the speed training.
DD: You’ve got 10 LPGA wins and a major. What’s left to accomplish? What are your goals with this comeback?
PC: I wouldn’t be playing the game if I didn’t want to win again — that’s for sure. But I also have a lot of short-term goals. After all this hard work with my golf swing, I want to be able to take it to the golf course and to contend. I’ve worked hard enough that I believe I can do that. It would be great, obviously, to win in front of Hilton. That would be just a dream come true. But I also want to show her what I can do: having her and being a mom but also going out and trying to succeed in my career. Show her the importance of determination and resilience and of never giving up. Because if I can’t do it, how could I expect her to? It’s been a rough last few years, for sure, when I have just not played good golf. I want to be able to get back out there and do what I know I can do.