Baldry: Stupples gives Europe plenty of drive
DUNSANY, Ireland – Last week, Karen Stupples posted something rather disturbing online: She threatened to stop tweeting. @KStupples, perhaps the most energetic tweeter on the LPGA, immediately was inundated with notes from followers begging her to reconsider. (Example: @FatherWizard I heart you! If that’s any consolation.)
Thankfully, “Stups” didn’t let the odd twit ruin a good thing. This week, she’s busy giving fans an inside look at the Solheim Cup, tweeting photos and tidbits from Team Europe. Stupples, 38, joined Twitter in May 2009 and has 6,346 followers and 15,103 tweets. (Though that’s probably changed since I typed this.)
The chatty Englishwoman informs her Tweeps on the details of life, such as when she’s having “a cuppa,” driving the family’s 40-foot Winnebago or walking Emma, her Yorkshire terrier. There might be a time when Stupples goes quiet, but she’s always reading.
“It’s almost like the little village gossip,” Stupples said last week in Prattville, Ala., from the comfort of her RV. “I want to know who’s doing what and where.”
Professional golfers can lead a lonely life, which is partly why so many enjoy the Solheim Cup: team competition. Stupples, however, rarely feels alone on the road because she’s usually in the company of husband Bobby Inman and their 4-year-old son, Logan. Not to mention their four-legged friend. They hit the highway in their Winnebago when the LPGA plays on the East Coast, and enjoy the odd barbecue with friends.
“In a world where our life revolves around travel, there’s some normalcy and consistency to it,” said Stupples, who feels healthier around her own things. Logan, a very well-behaved tot, doesn’t mind traveling with his own toys, either.
On this particular day in Alabama, Bobby, who also caddies for Karen, did the grocery shopping while Karen prepped for a tour-wide evening player meeting.
“Oh, I forgot the milk,” Inman said as he carried in supplies for the week. On Friday, the couple planned to have all those involved with tour daycare over for a cookout.
Stupples first toured an RV at Bulle Rock in Maryland six years ago and fell in love. The couple are on their second home on wheels, and as long as Karen doesn’t have to park, life is grand.
Stupples joined the LPGA in 1999 and was picked to play her second Solheim Cup this year. She encouraged the interview moderator not to read aloud her Solheim Cup record when she was introduced on Thursday during an afternoon news conference. The ultra-competitive mum doesn’t want to dwell on her 0-2-0 record. She made her only other appearance in 2005 at Crooked Stick.
“If you’re coming in here trying to find your golf game, you’re at the wrong event,” Stupples said.
Though she hasn’t won on tour since Logan was born, Stupples thinks she’s now a better player. She overhauled her game in 2011, changing every club in her bag and going with a new swing coach, Gary Gilchrist. The upbeat South African instructor told her three days before going to Phoenix in March that she needed to change her grip.
“That impressed me because a lot of coaches don’t want to tell you that,” Stupples said. She missed the cut in the next two events and then hit her stride. She has enjoyed a consistent year, finishing outside the top 35 only twice since then.
“I think that she has been working harder to show everybody that she deserved to be on the team,” European teammate Maria Hjorth said.
Stupples considers herself a better player than she was two years ago, and thought team captain Alison Nicholas made a good decision not picking her in 2009 and an even better one in ’11.
“I don’t think there’s too many players who hit it better than I do,” Stupples said. “And when I’m rolling my putter, I putt pretty well, too. It’s consistency and focus.”
Stupples is one of three mothers on the European team this year, joining Catriona Matthew and Hjorth. All three left their children at home for the week. Schedules are so packed that it’s almost impossible to spend time with family.
Motherhood hasn’t softened Stupples; quite the contrary. She claims she hasn’t mellowed any. In fact, she’s more competitive than ever. Stupples no longer plays only for herself. Or for her country. Her life now centers around everyone inside that RV.
Those following her on Twitter are, of course, along for the ride.
“Sometimes, it’s nice reinventing yourself,” Stupples said.
Particularly when life keeps getting better.