PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Paula Creamer’s victory drought will end in 2014. Why? Because a happy heart does wonders for a golf game. Just ask Inbee Park, who became a money-making, major-winning machine after her fiance/instructor joined her on the road.
Creamer’s fiance wasn’t following her around a windswept Paradise Island on Friday, but the holy-cow-that’s-big rock she put on her left hand shortly after the round reminded us all that Derek Heath is a game-changer.
“I am in such a great place,” Creamer said. “This is my 10th year out here, and it’s just kind of a refreshing new thing. I needed something to kind of help with things. It’s always hard, life out on tour as it is, but now being able to share things other than with my parents and Colin (Cann, her caddie), it’s been very exciting.”
A glowing Creamer put on a clinic with her irons Friday, showing tremendous feel and focus on a day when the wind gusted 25 mph at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. She opened with a double bogey but posted 10 birdies to vault up the board with an 8-under 65 at the Ocean Club Golf Course. She trails Jessica Korda, whom she played alongside, by one stroke.
“Paula kept pushing me because she kept making birdies,” said Korda, who fist-pumped often for the crowd of 15 following this marquee pairing. Apparently not many people came to paradise to watch golf.
Creamer, 27, hasn’t won on the LPGA since the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open, a stat that’s rather remarkable given how quickly she reached nine career victories.
Injuries, illnesses and several swing overhauls have contributed to this victory slump, and she’s weary of the storyline.
On Friday in paradise, however, Creamer was so dialed in that her play looked effortless. After hitting the flagstick on her approach to the 13th, Creamer’s ball scooted 12 feet left. She drained the putt for birdie and then went behind the green to soak in the postcard setting as Korda went to work on her own birdie putt. Creamer even picked up a rock, as if she wanted a souvenir from the place, before putting it back down. Perhaps the pink staff bag that longtime caddie Cann totes around already was too heavy.
For most of her career, Creamer has kept her private life out of the media conversation, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. But for months now the Creamer family has been gushing about Paula’s relationship with Heath, whose father flew in the Navy with Paula’s dad, Paul Creamer.
Paula and Heath met at the Kia Classic last March. Heath, who lives in California, flew for the Air Force and recently moved into active reserve status.
Creamer thought they were going to a winery last December while she was out in California and wondered if that’s where the romantic Heath would pop the question. But when he turned the car into an indoor skydiving facility, a worried Creamer called her dad.
“Can I even do this? Am I allowed to skydive?” Creamer asked. “I’m in like a leather skirt, a blouse, I had heels on. I’m like, I don’t have any clothes.”
After they jumped indoors, Creamer was directed to a plane waiting outside where a Green Beret whom her father had fully vetted was waiting to tandem jump with her.
Only one problem remained: It was too windy. All of a sudden Creamer realized the extreme sports junkies were leaving and she and Derek were the only ones getting on the plane. It didn’t add up.
The plane went up and came back down and Heath proposed in front of both of their families before they got back in the plane and jumped, a proposal written on the ground in giant red letters.
Funny enough, Creamer said after she won the USWO at Oakmont that she planned to skydive to celebrate. The USGA tried to set it up with the Air Force Academy for media day at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs in 2011, but fog canceled the jump.
This time, despite the wind, they got it done.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Creamer said.
Creamer tore down her golf swing last fall and tried to implement the changes during the Asian swing. She wanted to learn to take the changes from the range to the course, which is why she didn’t wait until the offseason.
“I didn’t finish off the year the way that I wanted, but I was seeing a lot of positive things happen,” she said. “My misses at that time were just so bad, and that caused a lot of my higher numbers and things like that.”
With a new driver in the bag and a revamped swing, a slim Creamer is now enjoying added distance off the tee and consistency with her irons.
“I needed to become a player again,” she said. “I lost that for a while.”
Let’s hope that like Heath, her game is here to stay.