Recari conquers opponent unlike anything on LPGA

Beatriz Recari on the set at Golf Channel on March 28 in Orlando, Fla.

— Beatriz Recari was seated in a Golf Channel studio early Thursday morning, looking like the picture of elegance in her demure lace dress. A solitary pearl dangled from each ear.

It’s hard to imagine this toned athlete ever struggling with body image, but that’s precisely why the Spaniard wants to help: Eating disorders can happen to anyone.

“If only I can help one person, that would be enough,” Recari said by phone. She was named the official ambassador for The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness days before she prevailed in a playoff at the LPGA's Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif. She celebrated by having a sandwich in the airport before catching the red-eye. When she got back home to Orlando, Recari and boyfriend/caddie Andreas Thorp joined her mother Monday for a celebratory lunch at Graeme McDowell’s new restaurant, Nona Blue. Recari particularly enjoyed the crispy calamari.

One of the most consistent players on the LPGA, Recari notched her second career victory amid a streak of 38 made cuts. In 2013, she tied for fourth in Australia, tied for third in Thailand and, after a T-24 in Singapore, prevailed against I.K. Kim in Carlsbad with a birdie on the second playoff hole.

Recent improvements can be traced to the range at Grand Cypress in Orlando, where Recari approached instructor Tom Creavy at the 2011 CME Group Titleholders.

“She came up to me on Monday of that week and said, ‘I’ve been struggling all year. Would you help me out?’ ” Creavy said. They met that afternoon and worked together all week. Recari tied for 12th in Orlando, telling Creavy that it was the best she hit the ball all year.

Last May, Recari bought Sergio Garcia’s home in Lake Nona and moved up from Miami. She had become close with Garcia’s father when the LET played the Spanish Open on their home course.

“They’re a really nice family,” Recari said, “always treating me like just one more.”

She meets with Creavy several times a week in Orlando during off-weeks. When they first started, Recari was picking shots with her irons. Creavy said she was fearful of hitting a 5-iron.

“On Sunday (at Kia), she made three birdies with her 5-iron,” Creavy said. “It was like her favorite club at the end of the tournament.”

They work on every part of her game, even incorporating trick shots that she might encounter only once a year, but could help her win. That shot Garcia hit out the tree during last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill? They’ve practiced a similar shot with her back to the hole, but against a bunker – minus the tree.

“She drives the ball so good now,” Creavy said. “And she can hit a lot more different shots around the greens.”

Creavy, who has been with Se Ri Pak since the beginning of her LPGA career, believes Recari will find herself in contention quite a bit this season. Next week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship sets up well for her draw and straight tee ball.

Strong play at the majors would give Recari an even bigger stage to tell her story. Her low point came in 2007, when, at 100 pounds, she could barely walk 18 holes. She had lost half of her hair.

In August 2007 at the Finnair Masters, where she had won in 2009, Recari called her father, Jose Luis, and said she needed help. He and a family friend who is a doctor helped her get through the week to make the cut and secure her LET status for the next season. Recari then returned to Spain for the rest of the year to get well.

“I remember nights I was so hungry I couldn’t sleep,” Recari said in a 2011 interview at the RR Donnelley Founders Cup, where she chose the Alliance as her designated charity.

Up to 24 million Americans suffer from some type of eating disorder, and the vast majority – about 9 out of 10 – are women, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Female athletes are at an even higher risk than the general population of women, according to the association.

Recari has become a student of nutrition. She eats almonds, walnuts, figs and dates while on the golf course. On her blog, she posts pictures of traditional Spanish dishes made in her kitchen.

Her vice: a bag of chips.

“I really want to share my experience with those people who are struggling right now,” Recari told Golf Channel viewers.

“It happens more often, unfortunately, than we all know.”

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