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When we watch a golfer like Paula Creamer shoot a snappy little 60, as she did in the first round of last summer's Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, we tend to forget that the game, at least on the professional level, is a grind.
It's hard. It is hours on the practice range and hours on the putting green and far too often a lonely, solitary existence. It is aching muscles and incessant travel and hotel rooms that all look alike. It's the occasional missed cut and plenty of weeks when the check barely covers expenses.
"It's hard enough to play golf when you're at 100 per cent," Creamer concluded yesterday at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
And Creamer is far from that. You could say that golf's Pink Panther is not nearly in the pink.
The Farr Classic's defending champion played back-to-back tournaments in Asia in early March and it must be small consolation that she finished third in each one. By the time she returned from Singapore she was hurling just about everything in sight and, over about 10 days, she dropped 15 pounds.
It probably wasn't a good thing that her next tournament was in Mexico.
"I didn't drink the water," she said emphatically. "I didn't even use the water to brush my teeth."
But Creamer got sick again and dropped another eight pounds. She was so weak she was forced to withdraw the following week in Phoenix.
Creamer said she has had every test, every scope, every biopsy in sight and the doctors have only been able to rule out all the really bad stuff.
"Nothing shows up," she said. "That's good, I guess, except I still don't know what it is."
She said she has regained most of the lost weight, but dressed in all black yesterday - only her earrings were pink - the young lady who is on the svelte side to begin with was visibly thinner.
And so it was that at the Farr Classic's annual media
luncheon, the media ate and Paula Creamer watched.
She has played in just six LPGA events this year and has those two Asian top 10s to her credit. She is hitting 82 percent of the fairways, which is very good, and 79 percent of the greens, which is very good. She also ranks 101st in putting, which is very bad.
She skipped last week's tour event in Virginia to play in the World Ladies Championship in Japan. Her putter showed life and she finished second.
Toledo fans would never question Creamer's guts, regardless of the state of her gut.
After opening with rounds of 60 - "I left a couple shots out there; I could have shot 58 that day easily." - and 65, Creamer struggled on the weekend and saw a once-formidable lead shrivel to one shot.
"One of the toughest things in sports is playing with a big lead with a lot of time left on the clock," Farr director Judd Silverman said.
But Creamer showed resolve down the stretch with a couple key birdies and fought off all her challengers.
As a result, she will return to the Meadows in July to defend her title in one of golf's perfect marriages, the Pink Panther in a tournament sponsored by Owens Corning.
"This is one of my favorite places," she said. "I wish I could play this golf course every week."
And keep a meal down, of course.