For a long time now, Pink Panther has proven itself to be a winner. Her latest award? maternity. A new beginning. And now, at the age of 36, the chance to run in the small guns in the LPGA. (This interview was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of GOLF).
On the phone from her home in Isleworth, just outside Orlando, Florida.
Dylan Dieter: I’m told you once came into the golf offices, put a 70-foot putt through the booths and tried first. Is this correct?
Paula Kramer: it’s the truth! That was right after Singapore [in 2014, where she made a 70-footer to win], and we went into the offices, which was really cool because normally we don’t get to see that side of golf. The staff was like, “Let’s reenact the slam dunk!” So we put a small cup at the end of the hall. It was cool – everyone was looking at their booths, and there they went. This was fun.
D.: Before this summer, you hadn’t started on the LPGA Tour in over a year. You are now engaged. Your daughter, Hilton, is not yet a year old. This sounds like a time for serious change for you. How did you make the decision, health and professionally, to go back there?
PC: A lot has definitely changed. My time management has to improve very quickly so that I can make time for golf. But my body feels really good. I feel strong. I’ve been working really hard on my game and everything that goes around it. A month or two after Hilton was born, I was like, How in the world would anyone do this? There is no way I can manage all of that. But my family and [fiancé] The Shin family gathered. They really helped me to be able to focus on my golf game when it was time to golf. When I come home, I’m a mom. I’m not Paula Kramer anymore. But it sure isn’t a lie when they say it takes a village.
DD: How has motherhood affected your practice schedule? I am sure you should set different limits.
PC: I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and finding the right time in your career to do so is incredibly difficult, especially when you’re athletic. I mean, anytime I come back from anything, it was an injury. This was very different. There is a little human involved. I had to tell myself, well, Hilton is fine. It’s okay to be here to do sports. They are taken care of.
I’m dating a lot of girls, all they do is eat, sleep, and play golf. I was one of them. I did it.
DD: How do you spot this stuff? Are you dependent on other people who have been through it? Do you work out quickly? Are there other moms on the LPGA Tour who have helped?
PC: It’s kind of like golf – something that might work for one person might not work for another. But you want to pick everyone’s brain, so I asked my good friends, Brittany Linkicum and Brittany Lang, what it’s like to go on tour. [with a kid] And what do you expect. I pick their minds a lot on the little things — just things you wouldn’t really know about unless you had a kid. The rest is my inner circle. I talk a lot with Shane about my expectations and goals. I have to be realistic, but at the same time, I don’t want to be just a name out there. I want to be competitive. And I don’t want to waste my time, my coach’s time, or anyone else’s time if I’m not 100% invested. That was a big deal, because I run into a lot of girls who all they do is eat, sleep, and play golf. I I was With them. I an act that. I wouldn’t say it’s an easier world, but there sure are plenty of distractions.
D: I’m curious about the swing-specific changes you were trying to make, because every golfer at every level can understand that trade-off: Do I stick with what I have and just try to play my best, or do I make repairs to try to get better?
PC: Well, I started working with [former PGA Tour pro] Grant White in September 2021, even though I was 5 1/2 months pregnant. Grant is a member of Isleworth, and I see him here all the time. I knew I needed to pick up the distance and the pace if I wanted to be able to compete with these girls. I asked him for his opinion. Like, “Is that possible?” Then he said, “Yeah, we have some time.” So we split my entire swing, which is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I don’t think I knew my golf swing as well as I do now. Now, it’s just a matter of taking it off the range and doing it under pressure.
D.: What happens when you try to take it out of range and into competition?
PC: It’s really easy to fall back into your old habits and go back to them, Well, I’ve done it so many times under pressure. Why don’t I want to do that now? You have to get over those things mentally.
DD: Grant helped you get that extra swing speed. From where he came?
PC: One person’s physical use. Without going to the gym, it was just learning how to use my legs, use the floor, and use my feet. Know how to use as much energy as possible. At first, it was strange. Like, if you look at the swings of female golfers, you’ll think: elegant, smooth. But they’re getting stronger and stronger all the time, even if they’re not as Rory or Bryson. With Grant, he said, “Hit hard!” Like, “Make noise! Grunt!” And I’m like, “What?” It’s like, “Paula, yeah, you have to do it.” So I think it was just getting out of my comfort zone – that was a big part of speed training.
DD: You’ve had 10 LPGA wins and a major. What is left to do? What are your goals for this comeback?
PC: I wouldn’t play the game if I didn’t want to win again – that’s for sure. But I also have a lot of short-term goals. After all that hard work with my golf swing, I want to be able to take it to the golf course and compete. I worked hard enough to think I could do it. It would be nice, of course, to beat Hilton. This would just be a dream come true. But I also want to show her what I can do: having her and being a mother but also getting out there and trying to succeed in my career. Show her the importance of determination, resilience, and never giving up. Because if I can’t do that, how can I expect her to? The last few years have been tough, sure, when I haven’t been playing golf very well. I want to be able to get back out there and do what I know I can do.
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