GLADSTONE, N.J. - Paula Creamer is busy. Not 18-year-old with cell phone busting up, so many parties to hit up, did you hear there's going to be a keg at Rick's, like it's crazy, busy. Paula Creamer doesn't do the "like this" or "like that" thing. She's grown up busy.
The busy of someone who is set to pocket a cool million-plus in the first year on the job, yet still cannot escape hearing about the next big junior employee who could supposedly render her obsolete in a few years. The busy of entourages, PR flacks and corporate meet-and-greets.
The last thing Paula Creamer needs is some hack happy golf writer asking her for swing advice.
Still when you're on a mission, you're on a mission. Did Kenny Rogers quit after shoving one cameraman? Did Vanilla Ice give up the dream after one (or 100) no-talent evaluations? Did Jennifer Aniston walk away weeping after getting dumped by one hunk?
Of course not. In this spirit of great American resiliency, I approached Creamer as she walked Hamilton Farms Golf Club in preparation for the Women's World Match Play Championships a few weeks ago. It's the Tuesday of event week and Creamer likely has just walked off a plane from a U.S. Open course that beat her up, like it beat up almost everyone else.
At this point, Creamer could be excused for rolling her eyes, turning on her spikes and throwing in a withering "whatever" at any intrusion. Especially one as ridiculous as this intrusion. She's playing for a $500,000 first-place prize.
And I'm? I'm looking for a way to bolster my pathetic game, the jumbled mess of a swing that's branded me the worst golf-playing golf writer ever and enabled my sadistic castle-baron boss Mark Nessmith to order me to take golf lessons. Of course, I'm trying to take these lessons without consulting anyone who actual identifies themselves as a golf instructor, or as I call them, chiropractors with video tape. For however long that's possible.
Which brings me to New Jersey to a farm commissioned by a rich guy who fell in love with farms during his rich childhood. This farm eventually passed into the hands of another rich guy who decided to build a golf course that his rich guy friends could play. And now it's the site of a tournament involving the 64 best women golfers in the world who actually admit they are pros (sorry, no Michelle Wie).
This is where I approach an 18-year-old girl with a swing straight from the book of Harvey Penick and ask for swing advice - expecting to get rejected, of course. Which is no big thing considering I spent most of my high school and college years getting rejected by 18-year-old girls (knew that would come in handy someday!)
Only Creamer listens and - keeps listening. At that point, I realize to my horror, I've morphed into some dissertation on hitting a dribbler two feet off the tee in front of a long-forgotten, once potential future father-in-law. Creamer's eyes are not just glazing over. She looks like she could slip into a bore comma at any moment. Yes, I've still got the touch!
Creamer saves the moment as easily as she saves par.
"It's all in the hands," she instructs, smiling. "Just watch the hands."
With that, Creamer is gone to do more important things. Work on her wedge shots from the bunkers. Test the speed of the greens. Pick out which color ribbon she's going to wear in her hair (a Creamer trademark). Surely, I just imagined the part about having to wash her hair.
Regardless, my path's been set.
Just watch the hands.
So simple, yet so profound. Paula Creamer is like Yoda. Only she has long tanned, toned legs and a smile that could melt Antarctica.
Just watch the hands.
This is what I will do at the Women's World Match Play Championship. Just watch the hands. Not just of Paula Creamer. But of the world's most dominant golfer, Annika Sorenstam; the LPGA's Anna Kournikova, Natalie Gulbis; new generation stars like Birdie Kim and old generation stand bys like Beth Daniel.
Didn't the LPGA itself come out with that marketing campaign a few years ago where they advanced the notion that schlub male golfers could improve their own games by simply watching the ladies play? The whole idea being that you could never play Tiger Woods' 300-yard bomb game, but maybe you could mimic Annika's precise iron shots? This simply advances that philosophy to the next level.
I'll watch the best women's golfers in the world, slip in requests for a few tips and see where it takes my own game. Who cares what the man in the castle thinks of the idea? Nessmith, who reportedly lives with two women at his beck and call in Europe, while employing a one-and-a-half-foot tall butler who drools on command (you see, Nessmith's Marlon Brando, The Island of Dr. Moreau out there), never actually sweats himself.
Learning by osmosis is a tried-and-true method. I hear unemployed uncles everywhere and Jessica Simpson particularly endorse it.
It turns out watching a professional golfer's hands isn't so easy. Not even when you hold a media armband that puts you behind the ropes and in score-placard-carrying-guy conversation path. For one thing, the guys carrying around these hulking cards on the end of a stick in the scorching summer sun are dying for a little chit-chat.
You try focusing on Annika's hand movements and wrist rotation when Bob from Bloomfield's telling you about this great new mosquito repellent he discovered. Hint: It's not found on any supermarket shelf, it is featured in almost every "South Park" episode.
And that's just the most minor of the distractions. First day of the tournament and Creamer's playing in this red athletic skirt that's short enough to be worn in the hottest nightclub. Did I mention those long, toned, tanned legs? Are golf Gandhis supposed to look like this?
Get a hold of yourself. She's 18. She's two months removed from her prom. Then again, she's not young enough to be your daughter. It's not like you're National Golf Editor Tim McDonald and Paula Creamer could be your great, great grand daughter.
Banish the thought. Any thoughts of the legs. Hands, hands, hands!
You know, her hands are nice too. Very shapely ...
Okay, maybe you're better off examining the hand movements of Joanne Morley. The 38-year-old British golfer is dressed like a suburban soccer mom in a simple white shirt and long green shorts. Nothing that would raise heartbeats in even a senior citizen home here. And she can play!
Morley, the 64th-ranked ranked player in the 64-women field is giving Sorenstam a run for her trophy case through the first 14 holes.
The ball is flying 230 yards plus down the fairway on a line so straight you could run a string from the tee to it without one wrinkle. And all I saw was a blur of hand and wrist movements so quick that the whole thing reminds me of that time a cougar sprang out of the bush I forget to trim and bared its teeth (okay, it was a squirrel - still damn scary!)
It's apparent modeling my game after any of these LPGA players would be like Rod Schneider of "Deuce Bigalow" (fame?) using Cary Grant's career as his touchstone. Some things just do not translate. I could practice 10 hours straight with one of golf's video tape chiropractors, 365 days a year for 20 years and still not come close to achieving the consistent pure swing of Morley, a women's golf no-name.
"That's why they call it pro sports," Beth Daniel explains to me gently, the way you might soothe a child who's discovered there is no secret programmer's getting-it-on glitch in his "Grand Theft Auto" video game.
That LPGA propaganda about being able to pick up tips from watching the women play because they hit the more human distances loomed bogus even before the possibility of 300-yard chick drives arrived. This hands study is the equivalent of a 5-foot-3 high school 12th man examining Michael Jordan's calf movements to determine how to fly through the air and throw down a 360.
Some things do not translate to mere mortals.
Still, I persist. Surely, there is something to be gained from watching pros who could wipe the fairways with those obnoxious amateur zero handicappers who seem to live to win easy money from no-game, big-mouth hackers like me (maybe betting the house on that 40-footer wasn't such a good idea). Surely, seeing Cristie Kerr's smooth, billowing-from-the-sky drives will do some good.
Besides, my golf Yoda is hot, 18 years old or not.
Eventually, I find myself in Natalie Gulbis' gallery. Gulbis is the blonde who poses in those classy, bosom-thrust-forward, come-hither looks in her own sold-out pinup calendar. On this day, Gulbis not only has on the golf mini skirt, but her top is tighter than bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Maybe Jennifer Mario, TravelGolf.com's resident golf fashinista, can explain the playing benefits of this look to us.
Of course, all that matters to this serious duffer is that Gulbis has a Jim Furyk-like swing. If it's unconventional, not endorsed by four out of five PGA quacks, it might just be for me.
This should be some great osmosis opportunity.
"Natalie!" one big-boned student of the great game screams out, his own shirt losing the battle against his midsection. "I want to be on you!"
Ron Burgundy would be proud.
A more reserved scholar of Ben Hogan nudges his buddy and whispers, following perfect golf etiquette of course, "She needs to bend over again."
This guy obviously desperately wants a better view of Gulbis' hand position. There sure are some dedicated golfers in New Jersey.
Alas, I cannot stay with the Princeton crowd forever. Creamer is finishing up a dominating first-round win and I want to be able to tell her the great knowledge I've gleamed from her tip. One more look at Creamer's red skirt and I've convinced myself this hand study is not just the key to a better golf swing. It's the key to world peace, hunger, Pete Rose's Hall of Fame bid and Karl Rove's future.
It's surely transforming my meager game. Surely, beautiful golf Yoda will be so impressed with my golf knowledge that she'll invite me to dinner and declare that I absolutely must be the one to write her future autobiography. I bound up to Creamer, let loose my most charming stupid grin.
She gives a quizzical look.
"Who are you again?"
August 3, 2005
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Forget all the lessons you took from golf pros. Forget the straight left arm, proper posture, head still, full shoulder turn, pronate, supinate, belt buckle to target, complete follow through, right elbow in pocket and the zillion other things some guy charged you $40 a half hour to remember. There are only two lessons you'll need in order to be a good golfer.
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