Six months after the birth of her first child, Lincicome enters the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions feeling refreshed and refocused but no less eager to win
ORLANDO, Fla. – Brittany Lincicome has accomplished a good deal in golf. She owns eight LPGA titles. She has captured two majors (2009 and 2015 ANA Inspiration). She has represented the U.S. on six Solheim Cup teams. At 34, the player who earned the nickname “Bam Bam” when she joined the LPGA remains one of the longest thumpers in the women’s game. In 2019, despite making only seven starts, she crossed $9 million in career earnings.
When you’ve played on the LPGA for 15 seasons, seen all the cities, played so many of the tournaments, so much can seem the same. Yet when Lincicome tees it up in this week’s season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando – an event in which LPGA winners of the past two seasons play alongside celebrity golfers who compete for their own purse – something will be vastly different. Fresh. She’s now a mom. In July, Lincicome and husband Dewald Gouws welcomed their first child, daughter Emery Reign Gouws. And now Mom is ready to return to a game at which she excels.
So, life is different, for sure, with a different set of challenges. Everything is new. When Lincicome and her mom strapped tiny Emery (born in July, two months prematurely, with Mom in Chicago to play in a pro-am) into her car seat and made the 90-minute trip from Tampa to Orlando for a one-day, late-year outing, Lincicome had more pieces of luggage in tow (17) than she had golf clubs.
She knows there will be trial and error. She’ll probably play two or three West Coast Swing events. She’ll likely play only two events in Asia, Thailand and Singapore. She’ll figure things out, and knowing Lincicome, she’ll do so with a giant smile on her face. As nervous as she still can get every time she steps onto the first tee – it matters not whether it’s a major championship or a start in Toledo – she always has carried herself in a very carefree and level manner, as tranquil as some country pond into which she might throw a fishing line.
“Brittany,” explains LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, “is always the person that I worry about least dying from stress one day. She’s always had life in perspective. Being a mom has probably only thrown that into hyper-speed. She’s always understood that golf is golf, and life is something different. She’s the one person that, when she’s taking a week off, I’m not worried that she’s hitting balls for 14 hours. She’s fishing, or she’s playing golf with her buddies.”
Lincicome is one of about “12 or 13” active moms on the LPGA in 2020, according to the tour. Eleven moms played the tour in 2019. Lincicome, her pal Sarah Jane Smith (son Theo) and Jackie Stoelting (son Baren) became moms in 2019. Brittany Lang (girl) is scheduled to join that group very soon, and newly married Michelle Wie recently announced that she is expecting her first child, a girl, this summer. Here is a source of great pride for Whan and his tour: Since 1993, the LPGA has offered its players onsite daycare – the Smuckers LPGA Child Development Center – at domestic events. LPGA competitors can enjoy the best of two worlds. Pro athletes by day, and loving, doting moms once the final putt drops on the 18th green.
“For female athletes, we don’t want them to choose between being a mom and being an athlete,” Whan said. “I think we’re the only sport in the world that has traveling daycare. I’d love to take credit for it as far as being the innovator, but all I did was receive it as an incumbent,” said Whan, who has led the tour since 2010.
“The really cool thing is that … somebody – that would have been [former LPGA commissioner] Charlie Meacham and Smuckers – was thinking that far ahead.”
Few people even know about one of the coolest events that the LPGA stages each summer. It’s a one-day Moms On Tour pro-am at Firestone in Ohio. Active LPGA moms and alumnae mothers who raised children on tour while they competed gather to play some golf, catch up, and attend a session after lunch that Whan says can get pretty emotional. Each mom stands up and talks about what daycare on the LPGA meant to her child or children, and what it meant to her and her career. Some of the children, many now in their 30s, even rise and speak to the lifetime friendships that they made.
Lincicome said little Emery, after making such an early debut, has been a dream. She sleeps through most of the night and flashes her mother’s smile a bunch. “It’s really been super-easy,” she says. Ah, but one catch. Lincicome used to love to come home from golf and grab some sleep. “There’s not as many naps now,” she said, laughing. “When I nap now, I have to nap when she naps.”
Lincicome has been on the move chasing trophies since her days as a rising teen in Seminole, Fla. (She celebrated high school graduation by shooting 66 and leading the opening round of the 2004 U.S. Women’s Open.) When she clocked out to begin maternity leave after her last event in May, Lincicome concedes that she really didn’t know what to do. She went to the gym every day (“which I’ve never done in my life”), and relished extra down time with her burly chocolate Lab, Dexter, a gift from her husband in late 2018.
In July, with a September due date ahead, she flew to an outing in Rockford, Ill., but didn’t feel quite right. Juli Inkster, one of the LPGA’s most accomplished moms, was in town to play, knew Lincicome didn’t look quite right and convinced her that she needed to go to the hospital to be checked out. When she got there, she was in labor. Emery arrived at 4 pounds, 11 ounces and crying, both good signs. Mom’s quick two-day trip to Illinois turned into five weeks split between long days in the hospital and long nights at the local Residence Inn.
All worth it. Now she says she barely can remember life without her little girl. Once the two got home to Florida, Mom’s itch to get back to competition soon surfaced.
“That whole stay-at-home thing,” Lincicome said, “it’s not really for me.”
The LPGA has made some smart and progressive changes to its maternity policies. Players now can take as much as two years off if they desire and not lose the status they held when they went on leave. Lincicome will play in 2020 off her solid finish of 2018 (when she won, made 19 cuts in 21 starts and was 22nd in earnings, with $833,586). The changes represent a clear message to young girls who aspire one day to be professional golfers. On the LPGA, a woman can keep family and golf as priorities, and not have to choose between the two.
As Lincicome starts up this week, there still are big goals to chase. She’s frequently been a hot starter, and would love to win again soon, potentially even this week, at a tournament run by one of her sponsors, Diamond Resorts. Lincicome was instrumental in helping the event transition from being a Challenge Season event for the PGA Tour Champions (two years) to a full-fledged LPGA event. (Eun-Hee Ji was the inaugural winner last January.) As an aside, both CME and Diamond Resorts, two of Lincicome’s main sponsors, paid her contract in full last year, whereas contractually, sponsors can pay players on maternity leave pro-rated sums if a certain number of tournament starts, usually 15, are not met.)
Lincicome said winning a U.S. Women’s Open remains high on her list of things she’d like to accomplish.
“I want to win the U.S. Open before I retire,” she said. “It sucks that that event only comes around one time a year. … I want to be more consistent. I feel like every player’s goal is to be more consistent. Annika [Sorenstam] did it; Lorena [Ochoa] always did it. I don’t know what their secret was, but they were always in the top 10, every week.
“Golf is just so up and down. I’m hoping now, having Emery, maybe she’ll calm me down a little bit. Obviously, I’m playing for something else, and it’s not life and death anymore, like it was before. I can be like, I have her at home; my day will be fine. At the end of the day, it’s going to be happy. Maybe it’ll make me play better.”
As always, mother knows best.