SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Having the opportunity to see your celebrity inspiration perform in person can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But to interact with them – to pick their brain – brings the experience to another level entirely.
That’s what more than 100 youngsters were able to do on Tuesday at a youth golf clinic at Sebonack Golf Club, the site of the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open Championship. The clinic featured 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer, who discussed her career and her roots as she participated in a Q&A session with the attendees, most of them from LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, which provides more than 20,000 girls around the country with an opportunity to learn the game while forming friendships and competing in a supportive and fun environment.
“It’s always fun being able to see the little girls – and even the little boys – in all their pink,” said Creamer, who is known as “The Pink Panther” for her trademark attire and attitude. “To be able to give back to girls’ golf is something that I take a lot of pride in … If I can inspire one of those little girls out there then I think I’ve done a good job.”
For nearly an hour, Creamer answered questions on topics such as how she competes on the course and the roots of her golf career, all the while stressing the importance of education and thanking her father, who was in the audience, for encouraging her and helping her find her career path. She also gave the junior golfers tips on how to adjust their attitude when they face challenges. When asked how she handles nerves, Creamer gave a response the youngsters could relate to.
“Being nervous is not something you should be ashamed of,” she told them. “Nervous means you care, you really want to do well… Learning to channel that emotion is one of the hardest things, but that’s why you go out there and practice … It’s hard, but that’s what the best players in the world can do.”
The clinic was co-hosted by Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today Show. Lauer, an avid golfer himself, reinforced the clinic’s message.
“For me to hang out with [Creamer] and be around young people who are interested in the game that I’m passionate about is wonderful,” he said. “This is something that I hope people like Paula, and even me, can pass on to another generation – that they play the game for the right reasons and they play it well.”
Following the Q&A session, Creamer gave a swing demonstration and chose youngsters from the crowd to hit some shots. Isabel Gonzalez, 16, a member of The First Tee of Metropolitan New York, even got to use one of Creamer’s clubs.
“I thought she was so sweet,” said Gonzalez. “You see people on TV and it’s like, oh my gosh, they’re famous. But you see them in person and you get to talk to them, you say, wow, they’re actually a real person.”
The First Tee of Metropolitan New York is dedicated to providing young golfers with opportunities to play while stressing the importance of education and community service. Fourteen girls from the tri-state area attended the clinic as part of a week-long retreat at the U.S. Women’s Open; they were selected to come to Sebonack based on criteria such as academic success, volunteer work, and passion for the game of golf.
Following the clinic, the youngsters had the opportunity to take pictures with Creamer and Lauer. Then, they were able to discuss their reactions and thoughts on Creamer’s message.
“It reminds me that she’s not that far from me,” said Jeanne-Marie Hamilton-Moore of the First Tee of Essex County. “She’s famous and she’s amazing, and I know that I can achieve that one day.”
Stephanie Breslof is the USGA’s online intern. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.