Paula Creamer wasn t this happy a year ago. There were tears, maybe, but no tears of joy. No verbal 21-gun salute from 15,000 fans crushed around the 18th green at Highland Meadows. No high-five with the Pink Panther, stuffed version.
Creamer missed the cut in last year s Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. She was doomed by an opening-round 75.
This is a golfer who doesn t miss many cuts. And, give or take the major championships, missing this one might hurt more than any. Think pink.
Anyway, after last year s second round, when it became clear there would not be a third, Creamer sat in the locker room, slamming things into a bag, cursing her fate, fighting back the emotions, and chatting with a few folks from the Farr staff and Owens Corning.
She has told the story three times this week and it has changed each time.
Friday s first version: Creamer promised them she d be back and make the cut next year.
OK, she managed to do that by a mere 17 strokes.
Saturday s second version: Creamer promised to come back and make it right.
Well, 18-under par through 54 holes with a comfortable four-shot lead made things pretty right.
Yesterday s final version: Creamer said that she told them I was determined to come back [next] year and win this golf tournament.
Mission accomplished. All three versions turned out as good as gold, or as pretty as pink.
You ve probably heard this before, but we ll give it another go. When Paula Creamer was a tour rookie in 2005 she wore a lot a pink outfits, put pink ribbons in her hair, played final rounds of tournaments with a pink golf ball, and had pink creatures for head covers.
We can only assume she likes pink. Her fellow pros and the media started calling her the Pink Panther.
The folks at Owens Corning apparently noticed. Among other things, they make that nice pink Fiberglas insulation and have a world-recognized Pink Panther marketing mascot.
Let s do the addition here. One plus one equals two.
I m sponsored by Owens Corning, my nickname is the Pink Panther, there are all those ties, so playing well here is really important to me, both for those reasons and for myself, Creamer said. Did you see all those people out there today in pink? All the little girls and boys? Walking up to the 18th green was quite a feeling. I just tried to soak it all up.
Fans have been congratulating Creamer on her win since Thursday afternoon. She had an opening-round 60 in the books and Pink Floyd never had so big a hit. (Sorry.)
When she backed it up with a 65 on Friday, she was cruising in a Pink Cadillac. (Really sorry).
But it was never going to be that easy.
After you shoot 60, I swear it s the hardest thing to come back out and play, she said. Anything over that, you feel like you are shooting 85. It was hard. But I managed to get it done.
She won yesterday with a 2-over 73. She prevailed by two strokes, even though her lead once slipped to a single shot. That opening-round 60 was ancient history on this warm, sun-drenched, wind-whipped day at the Meadows.
But when it got tough, when it stopped being sport and started being work, Creamer came up with answers.
You could argue that she won the Farr with a bogey that could have been a triple and a par that could have been anything.
Her first drive of the day landed in the rough and she had the worst lie I ve ever seen. She could do no more than chip into the fairway, still short of the water hazard, and her 7-iron approach landed on the front of the green, spun back a tad, and rolled 35 yards back down the hill. Her next shot landed just a bit further onto the green, spun back and came within six inches of dropping off the shelf. But it stayed up and she drilled the 18-foot putt into the center of the cup.
It was a good putt at a huge moment, she said.
Then, on No. 9, she and her caddie misjudged a gusting wind and her approach shot from the middle of the fairway airmailed the pin by 40 feet and the green by 20. Three things could happen with her little chip she could chunk it trying to be too fine and move it maybe eight inches; she could blow it over the green and down the hill to the shuttle bus stop, or she could hit it absolutely perfectly and nuzzle it within about six feet of the cup.
It was a great up and down, Creamer said. It was probably one of the biggest moments of the day.
If there was a bigger one it came at No. 13. Creamer had three-putted the 12th hole for a bogey that dropped her to 16-under, just a shot ahead of China s Shanshan Feng.
I said, What are you doing? You need to finish off this round, Creamer said. So she hit driver-wedge to nine feet and made the birdie at the 13th hole.
The 60 was absurd. The 65 was easy. The rest was a grind. But the Pink Panther pulled off one of the most popular wins in Farr Classic history.
Oh, yeah. She promised to be back next year.