CHAMPIONS
What I've Learned: U.S. Women's Open Champion Paula Creamer April 26, 2011 By Evan Rothman

Paula Creamer overcame recent heartache in the U.S Women's Open to finally claim the championship last July at Oakmont Country Club. (John Mummert/USGA)

Last July, Paula Creamer, coming off an extended absence from the LPGA Tour due to a thumb injury, finally fulfilled a lifelong goal by winning the U.S. Women’s Open at historic Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh by four shots. Creamer, who had flirted with the title in 2008 and 2009, was the only golfer to finish under par on the demanding par-71 layout with a 72-hole total of 3-under 281. Creamer talked with freelance writer Evan Rothman about what she learned from winning the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open. 

My win taught me how bad I’d really wanted it. It was a great week where everything clicked. It was hard, and I was in a lot of pain. But I said, This time I’m going to stick to my plan and whatever happens, happens. It ended up working.

At the Wednesday afternoon clinic before the tournament, I asked Mr. [Arnold] Palmer, So, any tips? And he goes, Keep your head down and don’t look up, because this golf course is a scary place. It looked like I was upset out there half the time, but I was just doing what he said—don’t look up and be focused on the next shot. Mr. Palmer sent me a wonderful letter of congratulations afterward. That was really neat. It’s framed and hanging in my office.

I try to relive the winning moment every day—it’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had. Not relief or anything like that. There was just so much excitement, because I’ve wanted it for so long. The fact that I did it, and I earned it. I played great. I had goose bumps, and of course I cried because I was so happy. After overcoming so much in the months leading to it, there was so much emotion built up.

To have your name on that trophy with all those wonderful past champions and ambassadors of the game, there’s nothing cooler than that. There’s no bigger achievement.

It gives me chills every time I look at it to see the names on there. Juli Inkster’s always been a role model of mine. It goes all the way down the list: Hollis Stacy. Laura Davies. Patty Berg, I mean, my goodness. It’s incredible. These are all people that made such a great impact on golf. Annika [Sorenstam]. Babe [Zaharias]. That’s pretty cool.

I got to fly in an F-16 over Oakmont after winning. My stomach held up fine. I refused to get sick. I pulled 9.1 g’s, too. My dad flew for the Navy. I guess it runs in the family.

I’ve sent the trophy out to my sponsors – TaylorMade, Owens Corning, Bridgestone. My club in California, Castlewood, had it about a month. I went to the IMG Academy, and they also had it for about a month. I haven’t really seen it that much! But it’s not just my trophy. So many people have helped me along the way, and I had to share it with everybody.

I’m an ambassador for The First Tee, and we have the Nine Core Values. I always say that if you follow those values it will help you in life, in school, in other sports, everything. You learn so much from golf. The biggest value in my life, at least recently, has been perseverance.

The [Women’s] Open is all about perseverance, so it was without a doubt the most appropriate first major for me. And to do it at Oakmont, the hardest golf course I’ve ever played … with its history and legacy? To have my name associated with that club is also pretty cool.

I Tweeted [U.S. Open champion] Graeme McDowell that I was jealous he got to go to the Super Bowl. We haven’t talked about our Open wins, but I’d like to.

Staying patient is the best golf advice I ever got. That and you have to enjoy what you’re doing. It sounds cliché to have fun. That’s hard to do when you’re struggling, but when you do you eventually play so much better.

Bounce-backs have always been a stat my dad and I looked at since I was a junior golfer. Whenever I had a bad hole, I couldn’t dwell on it. I had to try to bounce back with a par or birdie. You have to mentally make yourself get off the bogey train. The LPGA doesn’t keep that stat, but I do myself.

My biggest fashion tip? Accessories. And remember—the better you dress, the better you feel, the better you play.