For most high school teenagers, graduation day is the biggest day of their young lives.
For Paula Creamer, it wasnt even the biggest day of her week.
Creamer, an 18-year-old LPGA Tour rookie at the time, had earlier in the week become the second youngest player to win an event on the LPGA Tour with her victory at the Sybase Classic in New York. For dramatic effect ' and a harbinger for things to come - she rolled in a birdie putt at the 72nd hole for her maiden victory.
By the time her roller-coaster of a season had ended, Creamer had claimed another LPGA Tour title at the Evian Masters, posted two more wins in Japan, spearheaded a victory at the biennial Solheim Cup matches for the USA, became the youngest player to surpass $1 million in earnings on tour and won the LPGA Tours Rookie of the Year Award in a landslide. Whew!
And she started a controversy or two for good measure.
First came the Solheim Cup where the United States was coming off a pretty solid beating two years prior in Sweden. Creamer, the first LPGA rookie to ever make the team, decided to take matters into her own hands.
'All I can say is they (the Europeans) had better get ready because they're going to get beat,'' declared Creamer, much to the medias delight. Im putting it down. I'm very confident.'
It didnt quite carry the same weight as Joe Namaths guarantee at Super Bowl III, but for the LPGA Tour, pretty strong words nonetheless. Thankfully, her bold prediction was backed by her teammates and more importantly, team captain and Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez.
'She's 18, 19, she can say anything she wants,' said Lopez about Creamer stirring up the pot. 'It's nothing against the Europeans, she's just excited to play, she's very enthusiastic and I love it. All I want to hear is positive, nothing negative.'
But just like Broadway Joe, Creamer and the U.S. squad responded in kind by winning the matches in an emotional romp around the Crook Stick Golf Club in Indianapolis. Creamer herself went an impressive 3-1-1 in her matches and was one of only two players on the U.S. side to play in all five matches. So much for being a so-called rookie on the team.
Oh, there is nothing better than representing the United States of America and winning. There is nothing in golf that can make that a better feeling. Winning events is huge, but playing on a team and representing your country is a whole other league. It's a whole other level that you don't get to experience it as much, said Creamer after the USAs victory. I think with that, this makes this one of the highlights of my golf career.
Prior to the start of the event, Creamer made her feelings known that she was undeniably gunning for Sorenstams perch atop the world rankings.
I have always set high goals for myself. It just kind of motivates me, she said. When it comes to golf, I (have always) wanted to be the No. 1 player in the world.
The budding rivalry came to head late in the first round of the event, when the two players had an argument over where Sorenstams tee shot on 18 crossed the hazard and whether she should have gone back to the tee for her next shot. After conferring with rules officials, Sorenstam was allowed a favorable drop, much to the angst of Creamer.
I dont feel that it crossed (the hazard). Were never going to agree because she saw it differently, said Creamer following the round. In my heart of hearts, I did not see it cross. Its her conscience. If she thinks it did, it did.
'Golf is all about honesty and integrity of yourself out on the golf course,' followed up Creamer. 'I don't want to go home and say, Man, I should have said what I felt. I said what I felt. If it's wrong, it's wrong.'
Sorenstam acted as if she didnt understand what all the fuss was for, and true to form brushed it aside calmly and then went about winning her 10th title of the year. In the process, she let Creamer know just how far shell have to go take away Sorenstams mantle as best female player in the world.
Im going to have to work really hard this off-season, said Creamer. I have to get a lot longer; I need to get stronger. I need to be able to hit different shots. My putting needs to get better, short game, just creativity type of golf shots. Im glad I have my rookie year under my belt now.
A rookie year in which she graduated on so many levels.