Stupples sees offseason fixes pay off at Kraft
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Karen Stupples could be the mom who lives next door and strikes up a conversation on her way to the mailbox. She’d be the one to go to for a cup of sugar or advice on the golf swing. Of course, one would have to live in posh Lake Nona for that to actually happen, but she’s that approachable.
Stupples, 36, feels at home here in the desert, which is strange coming from a Brit who lives on the East Coast. She won sectional qualifying at Mission Hills in 1998 and hasn’t finished outside the top 23 in the five years she has played the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She’s currently tied for the lead with Lorena Ochoa at 6 under after her second consecutive 69 on Friday.
“My ball-striking has been good the last two weeks, and I’m feeling very comfortable out there,” Stupples said.
Actually, the Kraft is Stupples’ second start this season. She finished tied for 17th last week at the Kia Classic.
It’s hard to believe Stupples hasn’t won since 2004, when she won twice, including that incredible finish at the Women’s British Open. A lot has happened since then, including the birth of her son Logan in 2007 and husband Bobby Inman.
No longer able to use the I-just-had-a-baby excuse, Stupples hit the gym hard in the offseason hoping to get back into championship form. She had an emergency appendectomy in 2009 and tended to her son’s broken arm on the road and her dog’s paw surgery. She also had 16 varicose veins lasered and five injections. Life in the family Winnebago was a bit dicey at times.
Kraft Nabisco Championship (Rd. 2)
Song-Hee Kim shot a 68 Friday and has a one-stroke lead over a group that includes Lorena Ochoa at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
“Last year was a big slap in the face to me,” said Stupples, who now wears support hose on the course for her legs.
Stupples’ internal dialogue over the offseason went something like this: Come on, shape up, do something. You’re better than this. You’ve got more ability than you’re showing. Just get off your butt and start working.
This season the couple decided it was time to find a new caddie, giving Bobby more of a Mr. Mom role as Stupples concentrates on winning again. So far it’s a tremendous relief for mom, who doesn’t have to fight with her son in the wee hours of the morning getting him to daycare.
“There were many times I would try to chase (Bobby) down for an argument on the fairway just because, you know, we were both tired,” Stupples said. “That’s not a good look for anybody.”
Stupples wants to have an Inkster-like career. She looks at players who have enjoyed long stints on tour – Helen Alfredsson, Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster – and sees one thing in common: They’re all in great shape.
Over the winter, she told longtime trainer Kai Fusser to make her fit like Inkster. She has the length off the tee to keep up with the kids. Only her body could slow her down.
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While the change-up in Stupples’ family routine is making life easier for her on tour, Ochoa is still in a transition period. Her new husband, AeroMexico CEO Andres Conesa, is here this week and she has a new home in Mexico City and three step-children.
Good friend Marisa Baena, who missed the cut this week, calls Ochoa the happiest she has ever seen.
“She wanted that so bad for so many years,” Baena said. “She loves family.”
Baena attended the couple’s wedding in December and plans to spend the weekend watching Ochoa contend for her second Kraft title.
“Golf has always been not her life,” Baena said. “Now, it truly is just one aspect of who she is. She doesn’t care about what people say about her not playing as well. She knows eventually she will feel more comfortable.”