Last July, after my third round at the Marathon Classic in Toledo, Ohio, I was beating balls on the range when my husband, Gerrod, came over and started giving me a hard time. Fair enough, since I was six months pregnant and 11 strokes off the lead. But I’d just shot my second straight over-par round and wasn’t too happy with myself.
“Tomorrow’s your last round for a while,” Gerrod said.
“I know,” I replied. “But I still want to play good.”
I went out on Sunday and shot 66. The competitive side has always been there for me, and I didn’t expect that to change after becoming a mother. But you never know until it happens. By that point, even though I felt pretty good for most of my pregnancy, I was getting more tired, more quickly. I was getting tired of my short game, too: Chipping and putting had proved to be the biggest problems with a belly, as getting your arms farther from your body changes all your angles.
Another thing I learned was that I had some very good people in my corner. Earlier, at the Masters, I’d told Lynne Doughtie, CEO of KPMG, one of my sponsors, that I was having a baby. She called about two weeks later, while I was at the tournament in Los Angeles, to tell me that the company would honor my contract for the entire year, even though I couldn’t compete in my required minimum number of tournaments. I was almost in tears , knowing that I’d have their support when they could have figured, “She’s not going to play as good, she won’t be on TV as much, so we’re going to step away.” KPMG’s decision caught the attention of other sponsors, and almost every single one wound up doing the same thing.
My plan was always to return to the LPGA Tour. In fact, Gerrod and I tried to time it so that I’d get to play pretty much half a season and then start fresh at the beginning of 2019, which also worked with his season — Gerrod is the women’s golf coach at the University of Houston. We were blessed: It went exactly as planned. Even after shutting it down on Tour, I didn’t walk away from the game. Sometimes I’d go to Gerrod’s team’s practice to chip around a bit. But at eight months pregnant I was so tired that there was no more golf in the picture. It was a nice break. I’d been traveling around the world basically for 10 years straight.
I became a mom on October 25, 2018, with the arrival of our daughter, Chesnee. It was eight weeks later before my doctor cleared me to play, even though I’d started chipping and putting a few weeks earlier, just to get moving again. My body felt so, so different. It took a lot longer to recover than I’d expected. Again, it was still the chipping that felt the most foreign. It forced me back to the basics — ball position, hand position, grip. The full swing just needed repetitions, and the routines were second nature, too.
I was really worked up the night before my first round back, in mid-January at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Is it gonna be good? Is it gonna be bad? It was the first 18 holes I’d walked since back in July. It turned out that my body still knows what to do, and I still know how to make putts. I shot another 66, definitely the most remarkable 66 I’ve ever had. And my only thought after the round was, I want to go get Chesnee from daycare.
Everything has changed. I can’t even remember what life was like before Chesnee. Everything revolves around my daughter’s schedule, and golf is much more in perspective now. My mind sometimes wanders during a round. Is she taking a nap? Eating? Well, almost everything has changed.
As a kid, I enjoyed playing golf for the time I got to spend with my dad, and then for the challenge of the game. I always loved competing. I love having to make a putt. I love to practice. Having a baby hasn’t changed any of that. My goal is to have a picture with Chesnee and a winner’s trophy. Given how much she’ll be around golf, it would be hard for Chesnee not to play. I hope she does.
This game can teach you so much. About yourself. About humility. How to handle tough situations. How to carry yourself. How to interact with people. “Yes, ma’am.” “No, sir.” To be around the game at a young age, it’s such a great learning experience. Whether she stays with it or not, who cares? I just want her to love what she does as much as I love what I do.
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