Castrale's comeback: Motherhood makes it sweeter

Nicole Castrale hits her tee shot on the par-4 14th hole during the third round of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open.

Nicole Castrale hits her tee shot on the par-4 14th hole during the third round of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open.

KOHLER, Wis. – The pace around Blackwolf Run on Saturday was painfully slow. But Nicole Castrale and her husband/caddie Craig checked their watches for a different reason.

The couple likes to play a game on the course where they imagine what baby daughter Eleni, 8 months, might be doing at certain points throughout the day. Nicole says they’re lucky to be able to travel with Eleni thanks to her mother Patricia, who comes along to help with babysitting during rounds.

“It’s definitely the best thing that’s ever happened to us,” Castrale said of expanding the family. “It’s nice to be able to go home to her and know she’s giggling and she’s always happy, so it’s great. It’s a lot of fun.”

Between giving birth in 2011 and having season-ending shoulder surgery in 2010 (she played 16 events in those two years combined), Castrale, 33, hasn’t spent much time high on leaderboards of late. Through three rounds at the Women’s Open, she is at 1-over 217 and in a share of seventh. She trails runaway leader Na Yeon Choi by nine.

Paired with Choi, Castrale had arguably the best seat in the house in Round 3 as Choi shot 7-under 65. Castrale, who shot 74, calls it the best round she’s seen live.

Don’t overlook Castrale, a player who this week is putting together the best tournament of what has been a steady year. In eight LPGA starts this season, Castrale has made the cut all but once. A player with two Solheim Cups (2007, ’09) under her belt and one career win on the LPGA tour, she says the word “breakthrough” isn’t the right description for this week. Perhaps comeback would be better.

“I’ve always liked U.S. Opens,” says Castrale, who hasn’t played one since 2009, when she finished T-17.

Perhaps one reason is her calm demeanor – Castrale isn’t one to get particularly emotional on the golf course. She spent much of Saturday laughing off Choi’s low round. Even with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 10 and 11, Castrale couldn’t get honors.

“I think I finally got the tee on 16, so at least I got it once,” she said laughing.

The question is, what was Eleni doing when she did?

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