Known as the Pink Panther to her friends and fans, American Paula Creamer is playing her 11th season on the LPGA Tour. The 10-time tour winner won the 2010 U.S. Women's Open by four shots, bringing home her first major title after just four events back from thumb surgery. The 29-year-old has played on six U.S. Solheim Cup teams and is best known for her putting skills. But after a tough 2015 season that included four missed cuts, Creamer has her sights set on one thing this year -- improving enough to earn a spot on the 2016 Olympic team in Rio.
You struggled in 2015. How tough was it trying to get out of that rut?
Last year was a tough year. I had a couple of really good events, but definitely not what I was expecting or was planning to do. Solheim Cup was a huge thing for me last year, and I just never got off on the right foot, quite truthfully, but when I got there I ended up playing very well which was exciting. I just wish I could've done better last year, especially this year going into the Olympics. I made it a little bit harder on myself to get on that team.
Is the Olympics a high priority for you this year?
That's really the only goal that I have. I know if I can make that team that means I would've had to have won and had to have a really good start. I'm very aware of what I need to do, and I had an amazing off-season. I'm really excited to be back out here and I just have a great energy. I'm in a really good place and hopefully that will happen.
What was so amazing about your off-season?
Well I actually switched coaches in December. I've been with David Whelan for 14, almost 15 years, and I don't like change much. I've had my same caddy for 12 years -- we're going into our 12th year together. [Whelan] ended up leaving his job where he was and just logistics-wise, it couldn't work out and I kind of had to make a decision. I ended up going with Gary Gilchrist. I've known Gary for a very long time from when I moved to Florida and went to the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. He was the director there, so I've been around him and I've known him for awhile, and that's probably the biggest change of my life, but it's been a good one.
What's your game plan to earn a spot in the Olympic field?
Preparation for the Olympics for me is just about playing good golf early on in the season. I’m not really missing many tournaments because I know I need to play as much as I can to get on the team. That breaks down to being consistent, hopefully getting some wins and top-5 finishes.
What kind of impact do you think the Olympics will have on golf?
Golf in the Olympics is going to be massive for both sides, men and women. I hope that it makes a huge push in junior golf. I know there's a bunch of countries that want to represent themselves there. I think that you'll see a lot of excitement in the next couple of years after it and hopefully that can continue on for more, because that's the next generation of golf. I think that because the men are there as well, it will definitely transcend over to women's golf.
How does it feel to have little girls looking up to as a role model?
Being a role model or an idol, it's crazy! I never would have dreamt that. I definitely just love what I do.
Where did your nickname, the Pink Panther, come from?
[Laughs] Pink is my favorite color. I got the nickname when I was 16, and it's just stuck. The fact that now I can use that and try to have young girls or young boys get involved with the game because of a color, it's just mind-boggling to me. But you could be called worse things, I always say. I'll definitely take my Pink Panther nickname. Hopefully it will bring more youth into the game of golf.
You've been vocal in the past about having a Women's Masters. Do you still feel that way?
I came out last year and said that I think we should be able to play there [Augusta National]. Why not? Who wouldn't want to have that, especially females -- to be there and play for a green jacket. But you never know! We'll see, hopefully we can have an event there. That would be awesome.
If you could choose between a major, a Solheim Cup win and a gold medal, what would you choose?
That's crazy! That’s so hard. [Laughs] But for me, I would say gold medal. I've always wanted to be in the Olympics, I grew up watching it. That would be pretty awesome to have in your house.
What's one thing you would take away with you from your 11 seasons on the LPGA Tour?
Well I can't choose one! I'm definitely going to take two memories with me. Holding that U.S. Open trophy was the greatest feeling that I've ever experienced. However, representing your country, standing on the first tee, hearing "Paula Creamer, representing the United States of America," is ... it just gives me goosebumps sitting here. Those two memories I will never forget.