She thinks pink; future looks rosy


Thanks to a certain dominant young golfer, sales of driver head covers in the form of a tiger took off in the late 1990s.

Should pro shops anticipate a run on Pink Panther covers?

Paula Creamer fixated on all things pink before she became a champion golfer. That journey reached new heights with her first professional victory May 22, when she won $187,500 for finishing atop the leader board in the Sybase Classic in New York.

Alas, Creamer couldn't attempt to make it two wins in as many weekends. She passed on the next stop on the LPGA Tour because it conflicted with her high school graduation. The youngest winner of a multi-round event in tour history and the first rookie to win on tour in five years won't turn 19 until Aug. 5.

Amy Alcott took an event in 1975, one day past her 19th birthday. Marlene Hagge was just two weeks past her 18th when she won the 1952 Sarasota Open, which consisted of just one round.

Creamer will be among the crowd chasing Annika Sorenstam at Bulle Rock this week in the LPGA Championship. She talked about how Sorenstam has "raised the bar in women's golf," just as the aforementioned Tiger Woods has on the men's tour.

"If I want to be the No. 1 player in the world, it means I have to outwork her," Creamer said.

A methodical approach has already marked her teens.

Creamer was raised in a house along the first hole at a country club in the San Francisco area. Accomplished in everything from dancing to tennis to swimming, she was bitten by the golf bug at age 10 and dropped the rest by the time she was in the sixth grade.

Her father is an airline pilot, and the family moved to Florida so she could attend the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton.

While Michelle Wie garners sponsor's exemptions, Creamer has climbed the ranks with victories. She was honored as the top American junior player in 2003, then won the Nancy Lopez Award as the nation's top amateur in 2004, when she more than held her own on the LPGA Tour.

Creamer made the cut in all seven professional events she entered last year. She was the youngest medalist ever in the LPGA's final qualifying tournament and immediately joined the tour's youth movement, quieting the people who think she's "crazy that I turned professional at 18."

Before she birdied the par-5 18th for her first win, Creamer had a pair of top 10 finishes this year.

"I only know the way that I'm doing," said Creamer, when asked to compare her path to Wie's. "I like to know that I'm able to perform under pressure. I know that I've done it before, and I've won from every angle."

Sixth on the 2005 earnings list with $359,558 despite seeing courses like Bulle Rock for the first time, Creamer responded like an old pro Sunday in the ShopRite Classic in New Jersey.

At 1-over par when the day began, Creamer played the first 11 holes in 6-over. Headed to a paycheck that would barely earn expenses for her and her mother, who's traveling with her this year, Creamer played the last seven in 2-under (she won $3,247). It was the work of a player with the big picture in mind.

"My main goal is [the] Solheim Cup," Creamer said. "I have several months before the team is finalized. I hope I can get up in the captain's pick, if not make it on my own."

One other thing.

"And I'm going to try to win a major, as well."

LPGA Championship

What: McDonald's LPGA Championship

Where: Bulle Rock Golf Course, Havre de Grace

When: Thursday to Sunday

TV: Thursday and Friday, The Golf Channel, 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, chs. 13, 9, 3:30 p.m.

Par: 36-36-72

Yardage: 6,486

Purse: $1.8 million

Information: 410-939-2379

Tickets: Available at gate. Today pro-am, $15; tomorrow practice, $15; Thursday and Friday: $18; Saturday and Sunday $20. Thursday is free for people 50 and older. Saturday is free for people with a military ID.

Parking: Free at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, with free shuttle bus to the course

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