LPGA: The Moms On Tour
With it being Mother’s Day and a big weekend for Girls Golf, a partner of the LPGA, there is no better time to highlight the moms on tour than now. There are currently 23 mothers on the LPGA Tour, with Caroline Masson, Inbee Park, and Sophia Popov expecting their first children in 2023. Seven of the 23 will be competing this weekend in the Founders Cup; Paula Creamer, Julieta Granada, Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Azahara Munoz, and Mariajo Uribe.
Last year when the Founders Cup made its way to the Garden State, Lincicome was pregnant with her daughter Sophia. Now one year later, Sophia is joining her during the press conferences and has traveled to multiple stops on the tour.
“I think if one of us [Lincicome and Lewis] won with our girls here that would be really cool. Any week would be fantastic to win. To have one of our girls run out to us would be pretty awesome. Obviously, Mother's Day would be that much more special.” says Brittany Lincicome, mom of two and veteran tour golfer.
For most of these little ones, they have been traveling since they were just a few months old. Lewis mentioned her daughter Chesnee having been on the road and traveling since she was just three months old. It’s a different way to grow up and having the support of other moms on tour has been crucial.
“Just fun to watch her grow up on the road and all the girls that she gets to meet out here, the kids that she gets to play with. You ask her who her best friends are and it's the kids on tour,” said Lewis on her daughter.
As big proponents of Girls Golf, both Lewis and Lincicome shared the sentiment that they always want to be growing and changing the game to leave it better than they found it. That’s why this weekend and the partnership with Girls Golf is so important because it gives more young girls access to the sport. Having girls come out and support them during these tournaments makes what they’re doing all the more important. And, shows their little girls just how cool their moms are.
In 2019, the LPGA Tour enacted a new maternity policy that allowed players to freeze their current status for up to two years. This allowed new mothers to focus on their pregnancy, their first months with their child as well as their physical and mental recoveries. The new policy also allows players to determine when they want to stop competing in events while they’re pregnant. Prior to this new policy, they had to play a certain number of events, or their status could suffer.
However, one of the major downsides to these policies is that, unlike other sports, LPGA maternity leave is unpaid. For some of these women, playing is the only way that they can make money. When they are not on the course, sponsors are less inclined to continue to support them monetarily. Sponsors also typically require players to hit a minimum number of events to secure their full investment, which causes players to play well into their pregnancies.
Having this many mothers on tour is a major improvement from just a few years ago when women retired early at the peak of their careers to start a family. It felt as if they had to pick between two loves, being a mother or golf?
When former Women’s Open champion Karen Stupples announced she was pregnant in 2006, she was dropped by her sponsors, which convinced the British player that she couldn’t have a child and be a professional golfer.
"You should never have to choose between your career and starting a family, and the LPGA has done a really good job of not making it that way," Gerina Mendoza said in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
The LPGA has worked hard to ensure that players are supported and cared for as they start their journey to motherhood while still being able to come back and be a force on the green.
While “Mom Guilt” is a very real thing the LPGA does well to support their mothers who are playing different events. The LPGA has free childcare services, which are open Tuesday through Sunday at each event. They have been a pioneer for providing childcare that is consistent, high quality, and familiar to their families on tour.
According to the LPGA, “The Smucker’s LPGA Child Development Center was the first traveling childcare center in the world of professional sports and has been with the LPGA Tour for more than 25 years.”
The program has provided childcare services to LPGA athletes and staff since its inception, and it is vital to helping the LPGA’s athlete moms continue their careers after having children. This allows the moms to be their best professional athletes without the worries of childcare because they know the best care is being given.
“We’ve come a long way as an organization,” said Mendoza, “We have the longest-standing daycare in any sports affiliation, and it’s provided to us complimentary. People don’t realize until they have kids how expensive childcare can be.”
There are three full-time credentialed child development staff members who travel to each North American event. Their job is solely to care for the children of the moms on tour so that they can go onto the course and be in that zone. The children receive consistent care and education each week and stop on the tour because the staff members stay the same.
Overall, the LPGA Tour has helped these athletes pursue two dreams – a professional golf career and motherhood. With their maternity leave policy, players can give themselves the time they need to start their families and still return to their careers.