Veteran golf standout Paula Creamer and 15-year-old phenom Alexis Thompson are a study in contrasts as they prepare to compete in the ShopRite LPGA Classic beginning Friday at the Seaview's Bay Course in Galloway Township, N.J.
For Creamer, it's gut-check time. She's played just two rounds of golf since undergoing thumb surgery on March 31 but she oozed determination and courage in speaking about her comeback."Every shot I hit hurts. You won't see it on my face, but I am dying inside," said Creamer, who has won eight LPGA events and $7 million on the tour.
She's toughness personified.
Enter "Lexi" Thompson, who earlier this week became the youngest female golfer to turn professional. The announcement comes on the heels of a U.S. Curtis Cup victory where Lexi posted a 4-0-1 record.
For Lexi, life and golf have been a lot of laughs and fun and she has the world by the tail.
A souped-up NASCAR race car, sponsored by Red Bull, drove Thompson to the course and when she hopped out a mob of photographers captured her every move.
Young Cinderella has made it to the ball. "I feel thrilled," says Thompson.
For Creamer, meanwhile, she spoke bluntly about doctor visits, MRIs, cortisone shots, braces, surgery, physical therapy and those demons who briefly haunted her.
"There was a time when I didn't know if I was ever going to play golf again," said Creamer, also known as the "Pink Panther" for her eye-catching pink clothing.
But she is far from being in the pink. "My thumb won't be completely healed for quite a long time," she said. "I have to work through it. It will be a rollercoaster ride," she continued. "I won't be trying any crazy stuff out there on the course," she said. "Knock down shots are hard for me. I can't work the ball. I lost about 25 yards off the tee."
Gone, for now, are the days when it seemed like she hit a thousand balls a day. Now she can only hit about 45 balls in a practice session.
Creamer vividly detailed her life-changing event at the Honda PTT tournament in Thailand in February.
"I was 5-under through 15 and on the 16th hole after swinging the club I heard something tear. I started to cry and I played the last three holes in tears," Creamer recounted.
"My tendon on top of my thumb basically fell off the bone," she said.
"But I am glad to be back. Every day is a new day," Creamer said.
Lexi Thompson's days, meanwhile, are filled with laughter, excitement and fond memories and she confidently states that "now is the right time to take my game to the pro level." Yes, life is good.
Lexi steps into a bold new world on Friday.
And the 23-year-old Creamer hopes it will be her first step back as she tries to recapture the magic.