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Golf

Creamer Zeroing In On 1st Major

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: May 23, 2013 at 07:19 AM
EDINA, Minn. -

If the World Golf Hall of Fame had a category for Best Gimmick, Paula Creamer already would have been inducted into her own wing.

The 21-year-old American with a bold game loves the color pink so much she treats it like a lucky penny. Pink outfits are her favorite, but even when other color combinations are in order, an accessorized splash of her preferred hue is always present.

She also plays out of a pink golf bag, which carries clubs with pink shafts and grips. For final rounds on Sundays she brings out her own line of pink golf balls.

Naturally, such an obsession earned Creamer the nickname "Pink Panther," which, with added benefit of driver headcover in the likeness of her cartoon-character namesake, only makes the California native one of the most identifiable women on tour.

That notoriety, however, is nothing compared to what could be Creamer's after today's final round of the U.S. Women's Open.

By adding her first major champ- ionship to an already impressive resume, Creamer can have women's golf wrapped around her little finger.

Get it? Her pinkie.

At a time the LPGA is desperate for a homegrown star, Creamer on Saturday positioned herself for the rescue, heading into today's final round at Interlachen Country Club 8 under and one shot out of the lead.

"Well, I couldn't ask for any better position," she said. "I'm there. I've done the work so far. And I just have to go out and finish the deal. I'm excited. The golf course sets up really well to my game. Possibly it's my time."

Creamer will be paired in today's final group with countrywoman Stacy Lewis, whose third-round 67 was good for a 9-under 54-hole total. But while Creamer, in her fourth LPGA season, has six career wins - two of them this year - Lewis is playing in her first tournament as a pro.

Lewis, who won the 2007 NCAA Division I title while at Arkansas, turned professional June 9 just before Women's Open sectional qualifying held near her home in The Woodlands, Texas. She has overcome back surgery to battle scoliosis. She would be the ultimate Cinderella Story. But never in the history of golf has a player won a major championship in their professional debut.

"I've accomplished my goal for the week," Lewis said. "It was just to put myself in contention. And whatever happens today, it happens. I hope I win. I want to win probably more than anybody here."

Nevertheless, the tournament is Creamer's to decide. Not the least bit a surprise for anyone keeping a close eye - hey, there are a few - on the LPGA.

Growing up as a promising junior player in California, Creamer persuaded her parents - her dad was an airline pilot - to move to Florida so she could attend the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton. She went on to claim 19 national titles as an amateur.

A week before high school graduation, she won her first LPGA title. Now, in her fourth season she has climbed to No. 3 on the money list and No. 4 in the world rankings.

The only thing missing now is a major.

She likes her chances.

"Playing in any final group of any event is an advantage," she said. "And being able to do it professionally, I think I kind of have an advantage. Being able to win, as a professional, is something else. There's going to be a lot of nerves going out there. But at the same time you have to just stay within yourself. I'm going to be excited. I'm going to have a lot of jitters, and so is everybody else. But that's what makes the U.S. Open what it is."

Reporter Mick Elliott can be

reached at (813) 281-2534 or


melliott@tampatrib.com.

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