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June 16, 2010

Paula Creamer


MODERATOR: We're here with Paula Creamer here at the LGA ShopRite Classic. We've been missing you for a while out here on the tour. Welcome back. How does it feel to be back and making your return at Shop Rite?
PAULA CREAMER: It feels good. It's been a crazy couple months for myself, but I'm definitely glad to be back, especially here at Shop Rite. You know, it's nice to have this event back.
I've had a lot fond memories from this golf course and from this event. It's neat to be able to play my first tournament back on American soil.
MODERATOR: And how are you feeling? Is your injury completely healed?
PAULA CREAMER: No, it won't be completely healed for quite a long time. Um, this was actually my third round of 18 holes since Thailand, so I actually only the played one round of 18 holes coming into this week.
It's a progression. Have to work through it. It's been a roller coaster ride, but right now we're headed in the right direction.
MODERATOR: Great. Questions.

Q. Can you take us back to the first tournament of the year when you withdrew, just a little bit of the feeling and the disappointment.
PAULA CREAMER: Right. Okay. Well, my first injury happened in June of last year is when I started to feel my hand bother me. I had a couple cortisone shots, and I played the rest of the year fine.
When my last tournament in Houston I started to feel my thumb again, I didn't quite understand why. Went and saw a doctor and I had another cortisone shot.
I actually only got to practice about a couple weeks before Thailand just because of the pain, trying to eliminate, you know -- just added stress to it to get ready for the season.
Thailand came and I played my practice rounds. On the sixth tee I hit a tee shot that I felt something. It was kind of weird. Ever since that, I just kind of kept on going.
On the 16th tee, I mean, I was 5-under through 15 and, here I am on the 16th tee and hit a knock-down on the par-3 and I felt it pop or tear or something. I just immediately went down on the ground and started to cry and played the last three holes in tears.
The next day I was on a plane with Detroit where I met with my first doctor, Dr. DeSilva, who gave me my cortisone shots when I was at Jamie Farr. So saw him, had MRIs done, saw three other hand specialists, and finally ended up making the decision after we tried everything -- I mean, I tried braces, I tried gloves, I tried everything that you could imagine.
Every doctor said, Do everything you can before you have surgery. Surgery was supposed to be just tightening up my hand. They thought it was loose. They could a couple little things on MRI, but nothing really clear. But ultimately when they opened it up it was torn.
I had my roller volar plate tightened up, reconstructed, and my tendon on the top of my thumb basically fell off the bone. So it was a lot worse than what they thought.
It's been a struggle at times. You know, that Thailand day, honestly I didn't know if I was ever gonna play golf again. That's the only thing that was going through my head was, Oh, my gosh. Am I ever going to be able to play golf? You know, you think of the worse possible things that moment. Here we are. I'm teeing it up, so...
That's the short version. (Laughter.)

Q. With that said, do you think you'll ever be as good or as comfortable as you were?
PAULA CREAMER: I do, yes. Definitely. I think this is gonna help me in the future. I had a problem. You know, my joints and everything, it was just stretched out over time. It was chronic.
It's gonna take a long time. I mean, I've only been hitting for, jeez, two weeks, two and a half weeks. It's just a work in progress, really. You know, I can't do the shots that I use used to do right now. That's just because of swelling and my hand just won't allow it. I'm not gonna try.
I kind of have to go against myself on the golf course and realize that I have to just stick within myself. I can't do anything crazy like I could have done before. That's gonna be the hardest part, is accepting that and staying patient and realizing, you know, a couple weeks -- every day is a new day. Every day I can do a little bit more.
I have to really watch the amount of balls that I can hit. It's a whole new world right now. But at least I'm out here and I'm playing, and I'm excited for that.

Q. How long did you go without swinging a club? What was what was that like for you? I'm sure it's been several years since you haven't touched a club...
PAULA CREAMER: We've been talking about that. I think it's been nine years since I've taken this long off from golf.
But, well, after Thailand, trying braces and things like that I was hitting balls, but maybe 30 a day with the brace trying to see if something would work. I hit balls with the Phillies where they do their spring training. I went to them and they helped me out with braces.
But I was in a cast for three weeks, and then it was another several weeks after that where I still couldn't hit balls. Then I could putt and chip and work my way into it. So without balls, six, seven, eight weeks.

Q. Did you just say you worked with the Phillies?

Q. We're pretty Philly-based here, so could you detail that for us? And also, when you say not trying crazy stuff, what sorts of shots can't you do? Are you more conservative out of the rough?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, knock-downs for me are very hard. I can't quite do that. I can't quite work the wall as well as I used to. Those are probably the main ones.
I've lost a considerable amount of distance off the tee, but that'll come back. You know, I'm probably 25 yards shorter than what I was. But my irons are fairly decent right now with my distance. But I can't go after anything. I can't try and hit a hard 8-iron. Just gonna have to hit a little 7, something like that.
But with the Phillies, the trainer that I work out with knows the Phillies, and I actually threw out the first pitch last year with the Phillies at the U.S. Open, so kind of we have that bonding.
But I went out there and worked with them. They actually work with a lot thumb issues with catchers and things like that. I went out in Tampa, and they made up a couple molds for my hands. I hit some balls actually out on the field, which was pretty cool. They guys were watching me take divots and running over there and putting sand in right away. I was like, Sorry, have to take a divot.
But it was neat. It was quite an experience. It was the first time they said anybody's ever hit a golf ball off their field, and it was pink balls, too so that was cool.

Q. I wondered if through this experience, did you learn anything about what young girls or kids can do practicing or learning the sport to avoid this? I have a lot young readers who are really curious about taking up golf. Is there anything that you found out could be done to prevent that, or does it just happen?
PAULA CREAMER: Um, this is my body. It's just the way I was born. You know, my joints and things are loose. It's just kind of something that I have to deal with. It was chronic; it was over time.
The only thing they think might have happened was because I was a gymnast before. You use your hands a lot. That might have been a way that it could have put extra stress on it, and then just thousands and thousands of golf balls.
But, you know, now there are a lot of things that I have learned that I have to be careful of. Like I said, I can't hit a lot balls and I can't stay on the range for an hour and a half. I can only hit about 45 balls. I have to save it everything for the golf course.
But there's nothing that I could've done to prevent this.

Q. Given your limitations, your practice limitations and your shot limitations, what sorts of goals do you have going forward, or do you adjust your goals sort of week to week as you progress?
PAULA CREAMER: It's pretty much week to week. It's actually day to day. (Laughing.)
But, you know, it was a big day today. I have to play 18 holes. This is -- to see how many days in a row I can play is something that we're gonna have to look at. I'm gonna try and play the next four in a row, but I might have to take a couple days off in the middle of the week to save my hands.
I'm willing to do that if it's what I have to do. I have to listen to my body. That's the most important thing. You know, Tiger told me, Listen to your doctors and listen to your body. Those are the two main things that you do and those are the only people you listen to.
In this case, nobody knows what I feel. I can only go based by how I feel on the golf course. My goals are just to really have -- enjoy -- you know, I've been sitting out for so long it just really made me realize how much I truly love the game and how much I missed it and I want to get out there and be patient and do all the things that I've said for years.
Actually, I believe in those things. There's no way -- I can't do what I'm gonna do if I don't have patience, that's for sure.

Q. What do you recall of your first tournament here, and do you have any advice for Alexis Thompson turning pro at a course like this?
PAULA CREAMER: Um, well, my first time here was quite a good memory. You know, almost winning this event I think when I was 17 years old. Against Cristie Kerr on the last hole, it was fun. I came out the other day and I putted that putt again. It was like, God Paula, you need to play more break, you know. (Laughing.) But those are things that you remember and you have fun with.
I think it's neat. Good for her for turning pro. I wish her all the best of luck. I was her -- I captained her, so I got to know her at the end of last year, got to know a little bit about her and her personality and things. Just I wish her nothing but the best.

Q. You mentioned before you were a gymnast, aerobic dancing in your earlier life. Traditionally gymnasts are tough. You persevere through pain all the time as a gymnast. Did you do that a lot before you just had to succumb to the injury and say, Hey, look, I need to go and get operated on and get this thing taken care of?
PAULA CREAMER: Um, yes. I feel like I have been in a lot of pain. I'm pretty tough. You know, I like to think that.
You know, right now every shot I hit hurts. You're not gonna see it on my face, but inside, I'm dying inside. But, you know, the progression of after Thailand, I could putt, I could chip, and then I couldn't chip but I could putt it.
It all came down my to me holding a plate. I had a plate in my hand, and I just watched it and it just fell out of my hand. It was the weirdest thing. I go, Okay, it's time. You know, can't really do anything else.
That was after everything: after the Phillies; after the braces; after the gloves. That was the moment where I realized, All right we're gonna have surgery. It was only a couple days later where I had the operation.

Q. Any special things post-operation or exercising with the physical therapist?
PAULA CREAMER: I have done therapy four times a week every since I've had my cast off. It's tough. One of the hardest things is just pushing and pushing on that joint trying to get it to move. Half the battle is getting it to loosen up and to break up the scar tissue and things.
Strengthening my forearms is huge. Lots of rice buckets, lots of and folding newspapers, that kind of thing.

Q. Has it responded to your expectations. I mean, you're an elite athlete. We all have higher expectations.
PAULA CREAMER: I would say so. I mean, my doctor, Dr. Hunt, he's very pleased with how it is progressing. He's done such an amazing job helping me. Most convenient doctor I've ever had to deal with in my life.
I talked to him last night. He's just a very aware of what's going on with my golf. He understands golf, and he knows that being an athlete, I want to get out there as soon as I can. He kind of had to pull the cord back a little bit. I said, No, I feel good. I feel good. He goes, No, Paula.
No. They took my golf clubs away from me. It was quite an experience. But, you know, he's done such a good thing. With the therapy, that's the biggest part. You can do your surgery, but therapy afterwards is the most important part to get your strength back.

Q. What's your tentative schedule going forward? I don't know if you talked to Lexi at all, but if you have talked to her, or do, what sort of advice would you give her now that the game has kind of changed for her?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, my schedule, I'm gonna try and play the next four in a row. Like I said, we'll see how it goes. Every day like I said is a new day.
As to Lexi, she's a good player. She's played in some professional events as a sponsor's exemption. Being a professional, it's still the game and you still got to go out there and shoot the same scores. I guess it's just kind of a title in a sense.
I haven't spoken to her since -- for a while, actually. Probably since I saw her last in November. So I haven't kind of given her any advice with that.
But I think she's got a pretty good head on her shoulders and she'll do well.

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