Paula Creamer is returning to the Bay Area, and more notably, to the national championship.
The USGA announced Monday that it has awarded Creamer, the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion, a special exemption into the 76th U.S. Women’s Open field. The tournament — which is scheduled for June 3-6 — will be the first Women’s Open contested at Olympic Club in San Francisco, the famed five-time U.S. Open host.
“I really want to give a huge thank you to the USGA for allowing me to play this year,” Creamer told reporters on a press call Monday. “You know, it was very difficult not being able to go and play last year in the Open, and I was pretty bummed about it, so to be able to have this exemption for me and to come in and play, it means the world, especially in the Bay Area.”
The tournament marks Creamer’s return to major championship golf after an 18-month hiatus caused principally by a series of injuries. In the lead-up to Olympic, the 10-time LPGA Tour winner will return to competitive golf at the Pure Silk Championship at Kingsmill in late May.
“The pandemic hit, and I hate to say it, but for me it was almost a blessing in disguise,” she said. “Not playing in the U.S. Open and not playing in tournaments last year was not the easiest of decisions, but right now sitting here I have practiced a lot, more than I think I have in a very, very long time, and I don’t feel any pain, which to me, it’s worth it right now.”
Injuries are at least partially responsible for dashing the arc of a career that once seemed poised to dominate the women’s game — Creamer has won just one time since her 24th birthday, and says a severe thumb injury from 2010 still impacts her ability to grip the club.
“Oh, gosh. It’s been a long time [since I’ve been pain-free],” she said. “You know, you always think you feel good because you’re mentally telling yourself that. But truly, it’s been years. It has definitely been years.”
Creamer, 34, hails from nearby Pleasanton, Calif. and attended her first golf tournament at Olympic, the 1998 U.S. Open. Even if the Lake Course has undergone some tweaking in the time since that first visit, it promises to once again present a worthy challenge of a national championship.
“I think the fact that the men have been there, they’ve hosted so many big tournaments and they’re going to continue hosting so many big tournaments, a Ryder Cup and all of that, it just shows that it’s a great track and it’s timeless,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how the game changes, they can keep it there and keep bringing the big-time events there.”
For her part, Creamer is up to challenge — and very glad to be back.
“It’s just a different layout, and the prestige and the names that have been on that trophy that have come from the Olympic Club are some of the greatest, and the stories that you hear, they’re amazing,” she said. “Of course, how could you not want the Burgerdog, too? I mean, that I am looking forward to. But it’ll be fun to challenge us in so many different ways because they could put tee boxes wherever they want there…
“It’s home. It’ll always be home,” she said. “I’m a Cali girl, and you can’t take that away from me just because I live in Orlando now.”