Christina Proteau reflected for a moment on her improbable run in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship and the lesson she would like to impart to her newborn son.
“There were so many people who were quick to say, you can’t do that, or it’s not going to happen for you this year,” said Proteau, of Port Alberni, British Columbia. “But I didn’t believe it. If you want to do it, then you can. If you don’t want to do it, then you won’t.”
Proteau was six months pregnant with Jameson Mark when she arrived at Harbour Trees Golf Club in Noblesville, Ind., and after qualifying as the No. 12 seed, she won three matches – needing 19 holes in each victory – before losing to four-time champion Meghan Stasi in the quarterfinal round, also on the 19th hole. Proteau walked 112 holes over five days, along with her husband, Jim, who caddied for her.
Just under three months later, they were welcoming their first child into the world.
“I look at him and I say, how is it that you were inside my belly and we were playing golf, and now you’re out and you’re this little person,” said Proteau. “It’s really bizarre and a bit surreal.”
Far from fading at the finish in Indiana, Proteau rallied from 2 down with three to play – including a dramatic birdie on No. 18 – before losing to Stasi on the first extra hole.
“I was fortunate with the way it came out,” Stasi admitted afterward. “She chipped and putted the ball really well. And being six months pregnant – my goodness, that’s awesome.”
A wrinkle in the USGA’s 2014 competition calendar helped Proteau’s cause. She was competing in her third consecutive U.S. Women’s Mid-Am, but in 2012 and 2013, it had been played in October. This year’s championship at Harbour Trees started on Sept. 6, a month earlier.
“Frankly, if the event had been in October this year, I don’t think I would have been able to fly at that point,” said Proteau, 31, who is a prosecutor for the British Columbia department of ministry. “The timing worked out well for us.”
It wasn’t just the timing – it also had a lot to do with quality shots at crucial moments. Proteau overcame a three-hole deficit to Katie Miller, of Jeannette, Pa., in the Round of 16. That victory was her second of the day, after she defeated Alyssa Roland, of New York, N.Y., in the morning Round of 32. In both of those matches, Proteau had rebounded after losing No. 18. Against Stasi, Proteau was 4 down before rallying to force the extra hole.
“I did surprise myself with how much I was able to do,” said Proteau. “If you haven’t competed pregnant before, you just don’t know how your body is going to react.”
Indeed, Proteau joked early in the week about the effect her pregnancy had on her golf swing.
“When I miss shots to the right or to the left, it’s got to do with some growing that’s going on,” she said. “It’s an adjustment, but it’s for a great reason.”
Proteau’s routine for the Women’s Mid-Amateur helped her match her best showing in the championship, a quarterfinal berth in 2012 at Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio.
“It’s more than just showing up to the golf course to hit some warmup balls,” said Proteau. “There was stretching before and after the round, ice afterward, and the onsite trainer worked on my legs and ankles every day after the round. It was much more of a production.”
Proteau found out she was pregnant in April, shortly before the competitive season began in her home province. She went on to win her fifth Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur (and her fourth straight), as well as her fourth British Columbia Women’s Mid-Amateur title (to go along with three British Columbia Women’s Amateur titles). Proteau is a 2005 graduate of the University of New Mexico, where she earned all-conference and academic All-America honors.
“I took it tournament by tournament, all year,” said Proteau. “If anything was going to jeopardize the baby’s health, I wasn’t going to play. Even if I got to the [U.S. Women’s Mid-Am] finals, I was ready to stop playing if it was going to be harmful whatsoever to the baby.”
When she returned home from Indiana, her doctor laid down the law.
“He told me, you need to take it easy right now,” said Proteau with a laugh. “We all agreed on that.”
On Dec. 7, Jameson Mark Proteau was born, weighing in at 8 pounds, 4 ounces. Christina and Jim had not found out the baby’s gender ahead of time.
“Some friends from Seattle who play a lot of golf with us suggested Jameson as a girl’s name,” said Proteau. “We decided it could work as a boy’s name as well. My husband’s given name is James, so it’s a little play off that. And my father was Mark. He passed away 7 years ago from cancer, and if we had a boy, that was going to be the middle name.”
Proteau’s recovery was delayed a bit, but after a couple of extra days in the hospital, they brought Jameson home.
“He’s a pretty good little baby,” said Proteau. “Babies are only going to sleep as much as they’re going to sleep at a time – you can’t do much about that. Other than the lack of sleep, it’s been awesome.”
The Proteaus’ new life will continue to include golf.
“Someone came up to me after Jameson was born and said, word for word: So I guess this is it for golf,” said Proteau. “And I said, well, no, it’s not. I don’t believe that. I’ve seen other women do it and I know it can be done.”
By advancing to the 2014 quarterfinals, Proteau is exempt into the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, which will be played Oct. 3-8 at Squire Creek Country Club, in Choudrant, La. Before that, she will join partner Shawn Farmer to compete in the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, in Bandon, Ore. Proteau and Farmer, of Seattle, combined for a round of 70 in a sectional qualifier in August at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash.
“I will continue to compete,” said Proteau. “It may be a different number of times a year, or on a different level, but I am not going to let golf out of my life. I refuse to do that – it’s such a big part of Jim’s and my life. Let’s play, and see what it gives you. Last year, we took what it gave us, which was an amazing experience.”
In 2015, Jameson will again be along for the ride. Only this time, he will have a better view.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.