CHAMPIONS
Catching Up With ... Leigh Anne (Hardin) Creavy April 22, 2013 By David Shefter, USGA

Leigh Anne (Hardin) Creavy, left, with her family that includes husband, Tom, and two young sons. (Creavy family)

Leigh Anne Creavy (nee Hardin) anticipates a day not too far in the future when she will play competitive golf again.

Perhaps it will be in a U.S. Women’s Open, a championship Creavy played three times as an amateur. Or, if Creavy chooses to apply for reinstatement of her amateur status – she has stayed a professional despite not competing on any tour in seven years – she could possibly play in another U.S. Women’s Amateur.

But more likely, her next competitive opportunity may come in a parent-child event, because the 1998 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion and 2002 USA Curtis Cup Team member has other priorities. These days, a full-time job and a fledgling family keep her plenty busy.

In 2007, the former Duke University All-American married Tom Creavy, a noted PGA teaching professional. Their first child, Tyler Creavy, was born three years ago and their second son, Patrick, is a year old. That doesn’t leave much time for golf.

“Every four to six weeks, I’ll play 18 holes,” said Creavy, 31, who lives in Orlando, Fla., and travels a lot during the week as a rep for Lilly Pharmaceuticals, an Indianapolis-based company. “On the weekend, I want to spend time with the kids. And I have a husband.

“Whenever my in-laws or parents come to town and babysit is when I can sneak [golf] in.”

There was a time when competing on the LPGA Tour was a goal. As she matured, Creavy began to realize that her game, which relied on precision over power, wasn’t quite in the same league as elite pros like Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa or Yani Tseng.

Two years on the developmental Futures Tour reaffirmed that notion. When she tried to add a few extra yards, it created flaws in her natural, fluid swing, one that was based on timing and rhythm. This wasn’t the same player who won 18 American Junior Golf Association titles or the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Merion, a course that was tailor-made to her strengths: ball-striking and a deft short game.

“I tried to strengthen my grip and free-wheel it a little more,” she said. “Wide-open courses didn’t suit my game. If there was a lot of rough and it was tight, that’s where I felt the best. I liked being rewarded for playing smart. That’s why I always played well at USGA events because par is a great score. Even in the Women’s Opens … it was the same kind of thing.”

Creavy came to the realization that trying to remake her natural swing wasn’t in her best interest. She points to a current television commercial promoting a national sporting goods chain, in which Arnold Palmer stresses the individuality of the golf swing.

“Swing your swing,” he says in the voice-over. “Not a swing you saw on TV. Not a swing you wish you had… Perfect in its imperfection.”

“I love that [ad],” said Creavy. “My parents told me don’t worry about [the lack of distance]. As a teenager, you can listen too much to other people and it was a good life lesson. I am going to be who I am. And if it’s not good enough, then I guess I am not going to play on the LPGA Tour.

“Life will go on. It changed my perspective for college and beyond… Now my swing is definitely more efficient and I do hit it longer than I ever did … because I don’t care as much. You don’t think about it. If you hit it in the woods, [it’s] OK, no big deal.”

Creavy has no regrets. Her job with Lilly provides plenty of challenges and stimulation. She loves being around her two young children, and she can remain close to the game through her husband, who teaches at MetroWest in Orlando. His clients include 1998 U.S. Women’s Open champion and LPGA Tour Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, 2012 Women’s Open runner-up Amy Yang and recent LPGA Tour first-time winner Beatriz Recari. Web.com Tour pro Danny Ellis and Christo Greyling, a 2011 U.S. Open qualifier, are also students.

Leigh Anne chuckles when asked if Tom still assists her with her game.

“That’s a running joke,” she said. “He used to be my instructor. We started dating eight months after I started working with him. Now that we’re married, I tell him you can’t help me with my game.”

But it might not be long before another Creavy hits the course. Tyler, her older child, was having such a good time during a recent trip to the range that he cried when they left.

“He had a blister on his hand because he hit so many [balls],” she said. “He’s definitely a chip off the old block on both sides [of the family].”

Leigh Anne can envision the day when the family forms its own foursome. Golf, after all, runs in both families. Leigh Anne’s older brother, Brad, has competed in two U.S. Mid-Amateurs. Tom Creavy’s great uncle, Thomas Creavy, claimed the 1931 PGA Championship with a 2-and-1 win over Denny Shute at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I.

Tom occasionally competes in Florida PGA section events and, at his wife’s urging, he has filed an entry for this year’s U.S. Open at Merion, where Tom missed the match-play cut in the U.S. Amateur 24 years ago, and where Leigh Anne experienced so much joy nine years later.

“I would really love for him to be there and play at Merion,” she said. “But we’re going to try to go whether he qualifies or not. I would like to go back down memory lane.”

David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.