A Day with Paula Creamer
Just before the start of the 2016 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, I had the pleasure of meeting Paula Creamer, the American professional golfer and HSBC ambassador. I was lucky enough to have a golf lesson with Paula, who generously took some time afterwards to answer a few questions.
Paula Creamer is 29 years old. She has won 12 major tournaments and represented her country in the Solheim Cup 6 times.
Q: At what age did you start playing golf?
I started playing golf at the age of 10. My dad played golf, but my Mum has never played in her life. We lived on a golf course in California and I really didn’t want anything to do with it until I was 10 years old. At the age of 12 I had to decide whether to be a cheerleader or a member of the golf team and my dad asked me “Do you want to cheer for people or do you want people to cheer for you” so that’s when I decided that this is what I’m going to do and I turned professional when I was 18.
Q: You went to the IMG academy didn’t you?
Yes, I went there when I was 14. I’m an only child so my parents moved there. My dad was an American Airlines pilot and he was able to transfer to Miami. There was no way I would have gone without my parents who probably wouldn’t have let me go by myself either.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring young female golfers?
Well, I think you have to realise that to be a professional golfer there are a lot of decisions you have to make and understand that you will have to give up on many things and won’t live that normal life. It’s not for everybody: I travel 30 weeks of the year. It’s a tough life, very rewarding. I love the pressure, I love being able to go out and do what I love. I would also say that you don’t need to be a professional golfer to play golf and be involved with the sport. There are plenty of businesses where you can be involved in golf and college scholarships where golf can still be a part of your life. But if you do want to go the professional route you will have to make lots of sacrifices.
Q: You recently got married and you may start a family in the future. How will this fit in with your career?
It’s tough for any sports woman. Your body can only go through so much and I’m not ready to step away from the game yet. My husband and I have discussed it and there are so many goals I want to achieve at golf. I haven’t done what I want to do by any means and he’s very supportive of that. It’s on the cards, but the time isn’t right. Eventually.
Q: When the time does come, do you think you would take the children on tour with you or would that be a time to try something new?
I’ve always said that when that time comes, I would step away from the game. There are some women who do it with a lot of help and their families travel with them, but it’s tough. Golf is a selfish game: it’s all about you going out and practicing and competing, but when you’re a mother, it’s not just about you anymore, it’s about your child. When the time comes I’ll figure it out and I will probably move into a different career, but still in golf.
Q: So goals: I’ve been reading about your role in the Solheim Cup events …..
I love representing my country. I’m playing in all the events early this year because I want to play in the Olympics and want to do well early so that I can get on that team. It’s very difficult with only 4 players being chosen. I want to win tournaments. I want to be in contention, be back to where I was. Last year was one of the hardest years for me.
Q: You changed your swing and equipment. How did you cope with that?
Yes, we changed a lot of things and also with getting married my life has changed, trying to balance things out. It’s not just about me anymore, but my husband as well. I feel like we know what we’re doing now, though, and I feel like this is going to be a great year. I just changed coaches too. I’d been with David Whelan for 15 years so it was a very difficult decision. I’m a very loyal person. I’ve had the same caddy and manager, too, from the beginning and I don’t like change, but circumstances meant that we couldn’t work together this year.
Q: When you’re back home, do you spend a lot of time with your coach?
I do. I’m very lucky. His name is Gary Gilchrist and he lives about 40 minutes from me. I’ve always practiced a lot with my coach. I’m very visual: I’m someone who needs somebody to show me if I can’t do something and he’s got great energy.
Q: Have you had any injuries?
I had surgery on my left thumb in 2010, a total reconstruction. I used to be a gymnast and that, together with grip technique meant that over time I just more it down. I went in for what was supposed to have been 40 minutes but turned into 3 ½ hours of surgery – much worse than they thought.
Q: When you look at all the young women golfers coming through now, who would you say has a good chance of really making it?
The Koreans are unbelievable. There are a lot of them, so always in contention, but their demeanour on the golf course is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a 40 foot putt or a 2 foot putt. Their short game, the tempo of their game is flawless. I’d say Lydia Po and Inbee Park.
Q: Apart from a lot of practice with your coach, what else do you do to help your game?
During practice I always warm up. It’s extremely important, especially the rotations. I always start with a wedge to get the swing and gradually work my way through the clubs. Fitness is also very important: I’m hyper-mobile and have to work hard on strengthening my core and hips. I don’t do a lot, but just a few well-chosen exercises twice a day, every day and It’s helped a lot.
Q: Tell me a bit about your role as HSBC ambassador?
I was so excited to win the HSBC tournament in Singapore in 2014 and the timing for this tournament worked out really well. I’m so pleased to be a part of it. HSBC run tournaments so well. They do a great job of taking care of the players, all the fans have a wonderful time and it’s the highest class of events you can go to. It’s my first time here in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and I’m really honoured to be able to do something with the company and hopefully I will be able to do more in the future.