Trophy Traded for Cap and Gown


Paula Creamer wont be playing in the LPGAs Corning Classic this week. You see, she has rather pressing business she has to take care of Thursday at 11 oclock. Its a matter of ' well, high school graduation.
Creamer is the winner of last weeks Sybase Classic. Not since Marlene Hagge in 1952 has someone so young (18) won. Creamer cant rent a car for several years yet. And until Thursday, she cant even claim to be a high school graduate.
Paula Creamer
Paula Creamer's win moved her into 4th place on the LPGA Money list.
But, she is a professional tournament winner! Shes going back to Bradenton, Fla., for the senior banquet before the graduation exercise Thursday. Maybe she will be voted by her classmates at the Pendleton School as most likely to succeed. Oh wait - she already has succeeded!
Paula babbled on like a regular high school girl when discussing it. It's so exciting. There's not enough words to explain, she said. I can't speak, let alone think. It's awesome. There's so much energy coming out of me right now.
Lets see ' she won the LPGA Qualifying School Tournament by five shots in the fall when she had just turned 18. But while still a student at the David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton last summer, Creamer played in the U.S. Womens Open and finished a very impressive 13th. And she almost won last year while an amateur, finishing only one shot behind winner Cristie Kerr at the ShopRite Classic.
This year? The kid has made the cut in nine of 10 events and had a T3 finish earlier this year before her victory. And she still is looking forward to her graduation? After winning in New York, her high school ceremonies are still this meaningful?
Graduation is - well, that's hard to say, because graduation was just a completion of part of my life. And this, I hope, keeps going on-and-on kind of thing, Paula says.
I'm very proud that I am graduating and I'm very proud that I'm going home for that. But I'm also very proud of winning. It's hard to say, but this has been fun.
High school classes for Creamer ended in January. She worked extra hard to come out on the tour early. Her mother and father are going everywhere with her this rookie season ' remember, she isnt even allowed to rent a car.
And if anyone still believes that she is too young to turn pro, that the constant pressure on her is too much for a girl ' well, this should disprove such thinking. Certainly there are some young ladies who are not too young, as long as their parents are such an integral part of their travel and new life.
Actually, young people are at Pendleton hoping to become stars in tennis, basketball, soccer and other sports. All are hoping to win. Some have made it extremely big while teen-agers. Paula is curious ' she wonders what its like to be a child prodigy in these other sports.
With tennis players, I would like to know what it's like with them, with that being competitive out there, she mused. Maria Sharapova went to the Academy, as well. So there's a lot of people in common. We talk about it in different totally, you know, just off the golf course or off the tennis course or whatever.
Sharapova, incidentally another 18-year-old, has already won Wimbledon. She is probably the most famous Pendleton student. But Paula wont be far behind if she keeps this winning thing going. Pendleton, by the way, isnt your average high school. But for Creamer, it has been the ticket to a champions way of life.
I think for me it's normal, she said of her days at the school, then suddenly becoming a sports professional. 'But I think for anybody else, it's far from normal. It works with my schedule and it's all I'm used to. I think the other kids who don't go to academies and things like that, their life is normal. But to the normal 18 year old, it's definitely not the same.
Well, what is normal? And should any 18-year-old be subjected to such pressures as professional sports?
I've been asked this question a couple of times, began Creamer. I think if the person feels prepared for it - I'm 18, a lot of people feel that's way too young.
But I feel I'm ready for this and this is what I want to do. But I don't necessarily know in other sports. All I know is this one right now, golf, and I can only comment on that. I think if the person is prepared and this is what they want to do, so be it.
Paula has learned to live with pressure, to become accustomed to a life of competition. She is wise beyond her years on such matters. Be it best teenager, best American, best whatever ' she wants the heat turned all the way up.
I thrive off of pressure, she claims. It makes me practice harder. It makes me try to represent my country more, everything now, I hope that some day I can help other junior girls to get involved with golf.
Oh ' she got the perfunctory champagne douse after her win at Sylbase. I dont care if she is a kid, she wasnt going to escape the champagne spray. How did she like it?
Terrible, she said abruptly. It got in my eye. It was awful. I smell like it and it's not so good right now.
Hey - at least it's on me.
As opposed to, say, inside her. Tsk tsk ' after all, she isnt yet even out of high school. Not for a few hours, anyway.
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