Tour moms may be the LPGA’s most savvy travelers, as evidenced by the mountains of cargo they transport from tournament to tournament and the careful choreography they execute to make the constant transition as seamless as possible for their children.
At airport ticket counters, for example, you will see multiple bags, golf clubs, strollers, car seats, and a couple of kids in tow who regard it all as another grand adventure. Some Tour moms travel with infants, who must be carried or pushed.
What you can’t see are bags containing 10 pounds of baby formula and a six-week diaper supply. Stuffed into bags are also children’s toys and books, portable baby bathtubs, cribs, and playpens.
“For sure, traveling is the most difficult part because you have to be super well-organized,” said Karine Icher of France and mother of daughters, Lola, 7, and Maya, seven months old.
“We have four suitcases, my golf bag, three carry-on bags and when the oldest one is in school, we carry her books and homework, with a [crib] and a tub for the baby,” Icher added.
Icher traveled with her first daughter, Lola, until she was 4. Her husband, Fred Bonnargent, works as her caddie, but now that Lola is in elementary school at home in Orlando, FL, Bonnargent stays at home with the children while Icher continues traveling on Tour.
Once school is out, the entire family is rejoined on the road. Bonnargent resumes caddie duties and drives their cargo in a mini-van from tournament to tournament for domestic events while Icher flies to events with the girls and their carry-on bags.
“We have so much stuff that if we all flew, it would cost a fortune,” said Icher.
Tour member Sydnee Michaels gave birth to daughter, Isla, in November 2017, and returned to the LPGA Tour when her infant was four months old. For the first two weeks, she had on-the-road help from her mother and husband, Glenn Muncrief.
But soon Michaels and Isla were in charge of their own juggling act as they transitioned from event to event. Michaels would push Isla in a stroller with her purse and carry-on bag stuffed underneath while also pulling a cart containing a portable crib, suitcase with baby food, diapers, wipes, toys, clothes, sheets, and an inflatable bathtub, as well as her clubs and suitcase.
In addition to the plethora of packed items, Michaels attempted to protect a nagging back injury as they navigated through airports, planes, and hotels.
“My baby was a joy to travel with and I loved it, but I had to get creative that first year and learn how to pick things up without hurting myself,” Michaels said. “I’m not going to lie—it was hard, but it’s very lonely traveling on tour and I loved having her with me.”
Michaels laughs at the notion that Tour travel is “glamorous.” She also acknowledges the conundrum of staying at home with children or taking them on the road.
“I think we’re always going to have that internal battle of wanting to be home with our kids, but we also have career aspirations,” she added. “Having a family and having a career are both possible, and both are important.”
Michaels breast-fed Isla prior to rejoining the Tour, but as she planned her return, she realized that nursing an infant would be very difficult with the unpredictable nature of tournament days. She opted to stop nursing her child.
“It would have been even more difficult trying to nurse and play,” she explained. “If you don’t stay on your nursing schedule, your supply of milk is going to diminish.”
Tour moms also play many sleep-deprived rounds, which can make morning tee times challenging.
“Babies are awake at 5 or 6 AM, so it’s like you have an early tee time every day,” added Icher. “I just go to bed when the kids go to bed. By 9 PM, everybody is asleep.”
Icher said golfers have to be “selfish” to prepare for competition, but she added that having children has shifted her daily mindset.
“When golf is over for the day, it’s all about my daughters – feeding them, giving them baths and getting them ready for bed,” Icher said. “It’s not just about me anymore. It’s about the kids.”
Sometimes children also get sick on the road, which can upset the regular routine that touring professionals strive to achieve. Sick kids can be cranky children, which means their moms have to patiently wait for them to fall asleep.
“Many times, we have eaten in the hotel corridor while they get to sleep,” said LPGA tour veteran Catriona Matthew, whose caddie-husband Graeme Matthew traveled with her and daughters Katie and Sophie, until the girls were old enough to go to school back home in Scotland.
“It’s a lot of extra work [to travel with children], but to have them with you is pretty special,” added Matthew, Europe’s 2019 Solheim Cup Captain. “They grow up with other similar-aged kids on tour and the [LPGA] daycare staff always goes the extra mile to help us.”
Now a mother of two sons, Mason and Griffin, Cristie Kerr said she has become more attuned to details and more organized in planning travel for her entire family.
“You try to figure out what the weather is going to be where you are going,” said Kerr. “And then you have to make sure they have the right clothing, as well as the right sized clothes for however many weeks you’re going to be on the road with them because they are growing so fast.”
The LPGA has welcomed several new tour babies in the last few years and more youngsters have entered the Tour’s childcare program, the Smucker’s LPGA Child Development Center, this season, including the children of Texans Stacy Lewis and Gerina Mendoza.
Those new moms have sought advice from others, especially LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, who traveled with two daughters early in her career. Piller and Lewis have compared notes about travel logistics with infants. They have also advised new mom Brittany Lincicome, who hopes to take her infant daughter on the road next year.
“Gerina and I have been going through this together, and we’ve shared different ideas on how to get it all done,” said Lewis, who travels with infant daughter Chesnee and sometimes gets help on the road from her mother and husband, Gerrod Chadwell.
“Stacy and I have become really close and Juli [Inkster] has also helped me know when I’m doing the right things,” Piller added. “Babies can’t talk or convey that you’re doing a good job, so it’s nice to be reaffirmed by other moms.”
Because ex-husband Martin Piller has his own demanding travel schedule as a touring professional, Gerina gets help from her mother while traveling with her infant son A.J. She also had a traveling nanny earlier in the season.
“You have to be patient and flexible and know that things change every week,” she said.
What has not changed for Lewis and Mendoza is that both still want to win. Each says her competitive nature has not dimmed despite new life demands, new perspective, and less sleep.
“My practice schedule is condensed, and I try to use my time wisely,” said Lewis. “When I finish my practice, I want to spend my extra time with my daughter. Golf is not the most important thing anymore.”
Mendoza experienced a new realization at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open after she carded a final-round 68, charged up the leaderboard and tied for fifth at the major championship.
“I didn’t look at any leaderboards, but I knew that being under par on a Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open was good,” she said.
“At one point, I thought of AJ in daycare and that he had no idea what I was doing on the golf course,” Mendoza added. “That was a really cool thing to think about and it gave me a lot of peace to just play the best that I could for him, for myself and for my family.”