SYLVANIA, Ohio – Paula Creamer feels like a rookie all over again. Only this time, she’s a rookie mom, competing for the time on the LPGA this week since giving birth to daughter Hilton Rose in January. Creamer is one of two LPGA players coming back from maternity leave at the Dana Open as Spain’s Azahara Munoz returns with son Lucas, who was born in late February.
“I just feel very in control of my golf game, very motivated,” said Creamer. “It’s a different mindset than I think what I’ve had in the past, and I truly believe that is also because of Hilton. Just you feel stronger I think as a mom. I definitely want to play well for her, not only for myself.”
Creamer, a 10-time winner tour who last competed at the 2021 Amundi Evian, won the 2008 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club on the strength of an opening 60, the lowest round of her career.
The 36-year-old thought about coming back earlier to the tour, but decided it was too early for Hilton to travel – and she wasn’t going without her.
Creamer, who like Munoz had a C-section, said she got back to practicing a bit later than she had planned. She mostly stuck to walks around the neighborhood for several months until early March.
“Picking up the club was probably the easiest part of it,” said Creamer. “The mental side of it took me a little bit, but I was able to — we live so close to the driving range and practice area where I could bounce back home. It’s only 20 yards from where I live, so I was able to check in and out.
“At the same time, I had to tell myself, she’s safe, she’s good, she’s fine, go and do my job.”
Munoz didn’t miss a workout until the day she had Lucas, texting her trainer to let her know that she wasn’t feeling so great. Staying active until her son’s birth, she believes, helped her to bounce back quickly after taking off the initial six weeks.
Munoz’s husband Tim Vickers, a wealth advisor at FineMark, is in town this week and the couple is taking advantage of the LPGA’s Smuckers Child Development Center.
“Yesterday, walking in I was a bit – like you know when your heart is a bit tight,” said Munoz, “but as soon as I was there and they are so good, they grab the back and he’s mine. He’s good. I’m good.”
Munoz battled anxiety, fatigue and hair loss before being diagnosed several years ago with Hashimoto’s disease, a thyroid problem that robbed her of precious energy.
“Like at the bottom of it, I remember we got a new puppy and I was so tired,” said Munoz. “Like I can’t even walk the puppy. Then I start thinking, what’s wrong with me? Why don’t I want to do things? So it’s never been that bad anymore, so now I’m feeling like pretty fantastic.”
The tiredness is still there, but thanks to medication, she’s feeling quite strong for a new mom now working from the road.
Both Creamer and Munoz will be tuned in Wednesday night to watch Serena Williams’ final U.S. Open run with a new appreciation.
“I did see a quote that she did, ‘I’m going to from good mom to great mom,’ ” said Munoz. “It kind of hurts because it’s true. The other day traveling I’m like, ‘Oh, God, I’m putting my baby through so much.’ You know, it also has the positives. There are things that my baby is going to experience other babies are never going to experience. I really want to travel at least for a few years with him and see how it is.”
Creamer got goosebumps on Monday night watching Williams’ daughter take pictures of her mom walking onto the tennis court. She’d love for Hilton to one day do the same watching her.
“It would be very easy to step away from the game right now and be content with my career,” said Creamer, “but I definitely want to do a lot more.”