With her victory at the LPGA Sybase Classic, Paula Creamer checked off the first item on her 2005 “to do” list. With her graduation from The Pendleton School on May 26, she crossed off another. Next on the list is earning a spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup squad.
No one younger than Creamer, who turns 19 on Aug. 5, has won an LPGA event since Marlene Hagge captured the one-day Sarasota Open in 1952. For Creamer to have accomplished the feat of winning at such a tender age in today’s super competitive environment is nothing short of remarkable. But it hardly was unexpected.
Before skipping college, Creamer climbed the traditional ladder to the professional ranks. She was the No. 1 player in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings for nearly two years, thanks to 11 victories on the American Junior Golf Association circuit. She performed consistently in U.S. Golf Association events, twice reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur and twice making the final four of the U.S. Girls’ Junior. She was 2-1 at the 2004 Curtis Cup Match in England, winning both of her singles matches.
As medalist at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, Creamer served notice that she was more than ready to make the jump to professional golf. Six months later, she is fourth on the LPGA money list and 18th in the Solheim Cup point standings. Unless her current pace is interrupted, Creamer will be the youngest contestant to ever join a Solheim Cup squad.
Meanwhile, further down the age spectrum, Jack Nicklaus recently said that the upcoming British Open Championship at St. Andrews will mark the end of his competitive career, save for a few father-son tournaments and “skins game” exhibitions. The Golden Bear, 65, is going out on his own terms, which in golf is no easy feat.
Other athletes retire and play golf. Pro golfers can keep doing that and not retire. Golfers who hang around too long don’t run the risk of dragging down their team, and golf fans have a soft spot for the game’s elder statesmen – even when they put deteriorating skills on display.
Nicklaus, of course, is too proud to be a ceremonial golfer. But wasn’t it only yesterday that he captivated the sporting scene by winning the Masters at age 46?
That victory was a precursor to the success of fortysomethings such as Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry, as well as AARP-eligibles Jay Haas and Hale Irwin. If a golfer works diligently on his game and stays in shape, success knows no bounds. Add the fact that 90 percent of the game is played between the ears, then older – and presumably wiser – competitors would seem to have an ever-increasing advantage.
Which brings us back to Creamer. Should she somehow be left off this year’s Solheim Cup squad, she needn’t fret. When the 2025 matches roll around, Creamer will be only 39.
Just a few years shy of her peak.