This past weekend the LPGA Championship took place near Rochester, N.Y. In spite of very muddy, very wet conditions, including a rain delay before the first ball was even struck, the tournament was completed for a spectacular Sunday finish featuring a 3-hole playoff between two giants in women’s golf: Inbee Park and Catriona Matthew.
Inbee Park is a magnificent player. At 10 years old she watched Se Ri Pak, who is a God Mother of sorts to an entire generation of Korean golfing girls, win the U.S. Women’s Open at Black Wolf Run in Kohler Wisconsin in 1998. Inbee turned to her parents and said “I think I could do that”. 10 years later, nearly to the day, she won the U.S. Women’s Open herself and at 19 years old she was the youngest competitor to do so. Inbee is currently #1 in the world and has already won 2 majors in 2013. She has won 7 times on the LPGA Tour and 4 times on the JLPGA. Park has a putting stroke that many in the game (including on the men’s side) would kill for. Her full swing is equally impressive; an ultra-relaxed tempo combined with a dead-handed downswing give her consistency like no other. What a treasure she is to the LPGA Tour.
Catriona Matthew is a stalwart of both the American and European professional women’s golf tours. A Native of Scotland, she grew up playing golf and began playing professionally on both the LPGA and LET tours in 1995. Her nearly 20-year career has been very productive. She has 10 professional wins, 1 World Cup appearance and 5 Solheim cup appearances. One of the things that makes Catriona amazing is her continued success after having children. In January of 2009, when she won the inaugural LPGA HSBC Brasil Cup at five months pregnant. Her oldest child was just 2 years old at the time. In August of the same year she won the Ricoh British Women’s Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, when her newly born second daughter was only 11 weeks old. Her most recent wins came at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November of 2011 and the Ladies’ Irish Open in August 2012. Catriona is the first Scottish player (male or female) to win a major championship.
Golf is the only sport that can be played while pregnant. Thanks to corporate sponsor J.M. Smuckers there is a traveling daycare center where players can bring their children while out on tour. It is impressive to see a sport where women can play, and be hugely competitive, throughout the different stages in their lives. When a woman decides that she is ready, having children can be a natural evolution in her life and family goals if that is what she chooses. If she decides that being a mother is not for her that’s fine too. Women are not supposed to do anything. However, there should be the option of doing whatever they want, even those women that are athletes at the highest levels of their sport. Park is 25 and Matthew is 43. Park is single with no children, Matthew is married with two little girls at home. Were it not for a bad drive on the third playoff hole that nestled into the penal, championship-caliber rough, Catriona may have entered the winners’ circle yet again. Women should not have to end their golf careers to start a family unless by choice. It’s wonderful to see this truly in action at the highest levels of this difficult and prominent sport. Kudos to Matthew and the other golfermoms on tour, kudos to the LPGA, and kudos to golf.
Photo: courtesy of lpga.com