Jessica Korda, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Annika Sorenstam, Brittany Lincicome and Lexi Thompson at the Morgan & Friends event in 2015. Getty Images

Piller leads excited, curious LPGA friends into motherhood

By Randall MellJanuary 11, 2018, 10:20 pm

Gerina Piller’s new “bump” got a lot of attention from a group of major champions who huddled around her Monday during the Morgan & Friends Fight Cancer event in Boca Raton, Fla.

Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Paula Creamer were more than excited for Piller, who is 23 weeks pregnant. They were also curious.

“I told Gerina, `Write down everything I’ll need to know,’” Pressel said. “I told her to take notes.”

Pressel wasn’t kidding. She yearns to be a mom someday soon.

“It’s definitely something my husband and I are talking about a lot,” Pressel said. “It’s something we will pursue, hopefully soon.”

It seems like yesterday Piller and Pressel’s generation of American women were hitting the tour in force. Piller is 32 now, and Pressel will be 30 this spring. Creamer is 31 and Lincicome 32.

They became friends as juniors and while growing up on tour. They’re all married now, and they’re reaching that age together when thoughts of starting a family are becoming more important to them.



“I think once one of us gets it started, there’s going to be a ripple effect, with many kids coming at the same time,” Lincicome said when they all got together at Pressel’s charity event last year. “We’ve gone through junior golf together, professional golf together, weddings together, and one day I can see our kids together.”

There was a time not so long ago when the LPGA was filled with working moms, when the tour’s Smuckers-sponsored traveling daycare center bustled with children. It has shrunk considerably, so much so that Karine Icher’s two children are sometimes the only ones there during a tournament week.

The tour is so much younger now than it’s ever been. When Creamer turned 30 in 2016, the average age of an LPGA winner was just 22.3 years old. It helps explain why the traveling daycare center isn’t bustling anymore, but that might be changing in the not so distant future, if Piller really has started something.

“I feel like there’s going to be an influx,” Pressel said. “I know a quite a few ladies on tour would like to start families in the next few years, and hopefully we’ll all have children in daycare together. That would be fun.”

Piller will get to show off her “bump” Friday at the Diamond Resorts Invitational at Four Seasons Resort Orlando. It will be the first and only tournament start this year. She and husband Martin Piller, a PGA Tour pro, are expecting a boy on May 3.

While Piller plans to take the rest of the year off, her fans shouldn’t worry. She is determined to return to the LPGA next year with her status intact, thanks to the tour’s maternity policy.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be a mom,” Piller said. “But with Martin’s schedule and our lifestyle, it’s been hard to plan, but we’re blessed and excited for this time now in our lives.”

Piller, Pressel, Creamer and Lincicome don’t have to look far though to see evidence that there’s life on tour after motherhood. Juli Inkster won 18 times, four of them major championships, after giving birth to the first of her two daughters. Catriona Matthew won the Ricoh Women’s British Open when she was 39, 11 weeks after giving birth to her second daughter. Cristie Kerr, who became a mother 4 years ago with the help of a surrogate after she was diagnosed with endometrial deficiency, won after turning 40 last year.

Piller is especially close to Inkster.

“Juli is a huge role model for me, not just on the golf course, but off the course,” Piller said. “She has always stressed to me how family comes first, and how golf is always going to be there. She loves her girls and wouldn’t trade being a mom for the world. That’s very encouraging.”



Amanda Blumenherst, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ, actually got this baby deal going among her generation of American LPGA pros. She left the tour four years ago and now has a 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.

While Blumenherst entertained thoughts of returning to golf, she says her work as a Golf Channel analyst has satisfied her desire to remain involved in the game.

“I did think I was just hitting a pause button, as opposed to a retirement button,” Blumenherst said. “I thought we would start a family and then re-evaluate after having a few kiddos, but it really was a difficult decision to try to come back.

“I would have loved an LPGA win, or a hand full of them, or to make the Solheim Cup team. So that was a challenge, having goals I hadn’t met yet, but at the same time I knew having a family was very important to me.”

Blumenherst said she has gained a special admiration for women who continued to compete as moms.

“I had so much respect for Juli Inkster, Nancy Lopez and Danah Bordner before I had children, and now I have hero worship for them,” Blumenherst said. “I don’t know how they did it.

“Being a parent is a full-time job, and to see them balance both so well, it’s a super human feat. I don’t know if I could do it . . . It’s hard to be away from your children, to leave them for long chunks in a day or even to fly away to Asia and Europe and not take them with you. I admire the moms who do it.”

These are the challenges awaiting Piller, who knows she has a special group of friends who will want to see her notes when they follow her into motherhood someday soon.

“I look at what Catriona and Juli did, and I have hope I can come back just as good or even better,” Piller said. “If that’s not the case, I’ll have a pretty good reason why it wasn’t. Martin and I feel blessed and excited about what’s ahead.”

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.