Paula Creamer ready to build on decade of Solheim Cup success for Team USA

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Paula Creamer ready to build on decade of Solheim Cup success for Team USA

LPGA Tour

Paula Creamer ready to build on decade of Solheim Cup success for Team USA

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Paula Creamer put her first shot in a Solheim Cup into a TV tower. She was supposed to play with her idol in 2005, but Juli Inkster was out with an injured finger, so Nancy Lopez put Creamer out with Beth Daniel in opening foursomes. A nervous Creamer couldn’t make herself even walk to the first tee.

“I wouldn’t move off the green,” said Creamer, laughing, “and they were all radioing and walkie talkying ‘Creamer needs somebody to help her off the putting green.’ ”

She was all of 19 years old and slightly intimidated by Daniel, an LPGA Hall of Famer who would later be her captain. Creamer went 3-1-1 in her Solheim debut at Crooked Stick, quickly establishing herself as the heart and grit of Team USA for the next decade. She’s only two points shy of matching Juli Inkster’s U.S. record for all-time points at 18.5.

When it comes to Solheim Cups, Creamer has experienced it all. She has gone out first to set the tone for Americans many times in singles, and she has brought it home for her country in the anchor spot as she did two years ago in Germany. 

“Paula’s got nothing to prove,” said Cristie Kerr.

Creamer comes into her seventh consecutive Solheim Cup via a new route – alternate – but no one inside the ropes will look at her any differently. She’ll merely be the veteran with the 14-8-5 record who can pull a teammate to the side, as she did to Angela Stanford in 2015, and quickly instill a confidence.

“You’re better than this,” Creamer told a lost Stanford after two tough losses. “You have to be determined.”

Stanford, the woman who hadn’t won a Solheim point in six years, went out and slayed the giant in Suzann Pettersen.

Creamer has been lost herself this year at times in terms of form. Shortly after the U.S. Women’s Open, however, something clicked. She’s now confident in where the ball is going.

“I know I can make big putts whenever I need to,” said Creamer, “that’s never been an issue.”

England’s Mel Reid noted that it’s not necessarily the best players on a team who win the most points. Pre-Solheim form isn’t gospel.

“Like I said,” said Reid, “I wouldn’t put it past (Creamer) to have a fantastic Solheim Cup.”

Inkster knew she wanted to put the name of a veteran in the envelope. She couldn’t know how close to competition that Jessica Korda might potentially pull out. (She’d been battling an injured left forearm for months.) And the idea of flying in a rookie to Des Moines Golf and Country Club at the last minute didn’t sit well with Inkster.

“I don’t want to put someone in a situation where I don’t think they can handle it,” Inkster said.

So it came down to Creamer and Stanford. Inkster felt Creamer was playing better and, well, Stanford’s record of 4-13-3 did her no favors. Plus Creamer is used to being under the microscope. She’d already been a controversial pick in 2015 and rose to the occasion. 

“And (Paula) is really good in alternate shot,” said Inkster, “I could come and put her in any pod or anything and she would be able to adapt.”

Creamer, 31, is a 10-time winner on the LPGA. She’s also a major champion, claiming the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at famed Oakmont. But the Solheim Cup is what has defined her career. 

Creamer’s father, Paul, flew in the Navy, and she married U.S. Air Force Captain Derek Heath after he proposed to her while skydiving. It’s no surprise that her charity efforts center around the military.

Nothing in golf gets Creamer’s heart beating like that first tee at the Solheim Cup. Even, as in 2005, when her partner is the one hitting the shot.

“I think there’s no better honor than representing your country,” said Creamer. 

“So seeing red, white and blue and seeing our flag and being able to play for that and the freedom we have, it’s just – it’s amazing. It really is so special.”

Latest

More Golfweek
Home