June 15, 2008

American Idol: Paula Creamer

Paula Creamer may be 19, but she knows how to win

She has a hard time sitting still. She lives with her parents and decorates her room with Jessica Simpson pictures. She loves to shop. And she wants her own car, but so far Dad's not budging.

She has a hard time sitting still. She lives with her parents and decorates her room with Jessica Simpson pictures. She loves to shop. And she wants her own car, but so far Dad's not budging.

In some ways, Paula Creamer is like most 19-year-olds. She has a hard time sitting still. She lives with her parents and decorates her room with Jessica Simpson pictures. She loves to shop. And she wants her own car, but so far Dad's not budging.

__In other ways, Creamer is unique. She's the Pink Panther, a nickname that fits because she's often in pink golf attire, hat to toe. Only two months after high school graduation, she was No. 2 on the LPGA Tour money list. She earned $1 million faster than anyone in the tour's history, though she still can't use an ATM card -- she doesn't know her PIN number. And she won four times on three continents in her first year as a professional, setting the bar even higher for Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel. Only Annika Sorenstam had a better year than Creamer did. __

__Paula is feisty, fun and cool under pressure. After a near-death experience as a little girl, all she wanted to do was "go get doughnuts." She isn't so concerned if you don't pronounce her name correctly, but after making a bold prediction -- and delivering -- she wants to make sure you know she has something in common with another famous athlete. Some words of advice to the player who stands between Creamer and being the best: Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear. __

Golf Digest: It's basic, but a lot of people get it wrong: What's the proper pronunciation of your last name?

Paula Creamer: My name's Creamer: Paula Cream-er, like coffee creamer. On the first tee they ask me, "How do you pronounce it?" They say, "I hear 'Kramer,' I hear this, I hear that," and I say, "No, it's just the way it looks." But you know, after a while you get tired of correcting them.

How many people mispronounce it?

Half. It's getting better. The Golf Channel is now getting it right. It was funny, Nancy [Lopez] said it wrong [at the Solheim Cup]. I was like, "Nancy what are you doing? Come on!"

Great golfers eventually are known by first name only: Arnie, Jack, Nancy, Tiger, Phil, Annika and Vijay. Maybe the problem with your last name will help.

I know! But it'll be for the wrong reason.

__A year ago you were an 18-year-old amateur. Now you've won four pro events on three continents and were one of the stars of the Solheim Cup. After what you've accomplished, what do you think when you hear Michelle Wie is on The Golf Channel for a live press conference to turn pro the week before her 16th birthday and is signing for $10 million? __

She's been a professional golfer for a long time, in my mind. I've always thought that if she brings her name to women's golf, that means there'll be more interest because the media likes her. There'll be bigger purses, and ultimately it'll be better for me.

__There's nothing in you that says, "How come I'm not making $10 million?" __

I guess I think about that, but I also think it isn't necessary. I think about what I've accomplished and my career. I care about how many wins I have and whether I'm accomplishing my goals.

When you turned pro, was your press conference televised?

Um . . . no. I think I had something later on The Golf Channel, but it was nothing like she had.

Do you have any idea how much you're worth?

I have no idea.

No idea?

I don't care about that kind of stuff. I care about my quality of life and money, but I don't know an exact number.

__Definitely not $10 million? __

No, not $10 million.

__Maybe $5 million? __

In that area.

Who handles your money?

IMG [International Management Group]. My parents are also involved, but I have a person who handles all of my money.

So if you go to an ATM right now and get cash, what's your available balance?

I've never gotten cash out of a machine. I use my credit cards, so I don't need to do that.

You've never gotten cash out of a machine?

Never. I've watched people, but I've never done it.

__Come on! How do you get cash? __

My dad, I guess.

How many credit cards do you have?

Three.

What color are they?

I have platinum. I have a new green one, which is pretty cool.

Golf Digest people probably don't get the new green ones.

[Laughs.] I do go to the bank and make withdrawals, but not from those machines.

Do you have a PIN number?

I might have one, but I don't know it. I have a debit card, I think, but I've never used it.

Do you get an allowance?

From who, my parents? No, but I'm trying to learn how much I'll allow myself to spend each month: $4,000, maybe $2,000. I haven't figured out the number yet. It depends on where we play. New York was terrible. That was the week I won for the first time, so I went crazy.

How much a month do you spend on clothes?

Too much. It depends. I can go from $1,000 in a week to $1,000 in a month. It's a lot.

On the LPGA Tour, is fashion about keeping up with what other people are doing?

I think I do my own thing. I start my own trends. I see a lot of girls doing what I've been doing. Pink. Nobody wore pink, and now everybody wears it. It's flattering.

Why pink?

It's so girlie. It's a totally different side of me. When people think of me on the golf course, they think of me as so competitive -- and I am. Pink represents the other side of me, the side off the golf course. It reminds me there's more to life than just golf.

You still live at home with your parents. I assume your room is pink?

Yes. A lot of things are pink.

What posters are on the walls?

Jessica Simpson. I have two of her pictures from magazines. I have an American flag. I have a huge collage of my friends from California. I have my name in Thai, and I have a huge Pink Panther doll. It's so big you can move his arms. When you leave home, what are the best perks of LPGA life? I like the courtesy cars. This week we get Land Rovers. That's my dream car, and I get to drive one all week. Last night I went driving for 20 minutes just to be driving that car.

Why not buy it?

I might.

Do your friends make fun of you for not owning your own car?

Oh, all of the time. Casey [former Oklahoma State All-American Casey Wittenberg] makes fun of me so much. He says, "How do you have all of this money" -- that he thinks I have -- "and you don't have your own car?" My dad won't let me get a car yet.

Why?

I don't know. You'll have to ask him. I think he's afraid.

Ever been caught speeding?

No.

Any near-death experiences?

I don't think so. I was in a car accident once. I think I was 7. My dad was driving me to school, and he tried to go around this car on the right. The sun was real bad, and this pole was sticking out the back of a parked truck. The pole went right through the windshield. Because I was so little and low, it went over my head.

That's a near-death experience.

I guess, but I don't remember it real well. My dad said, "What do you want to do now?" I said, "Let's go get doughnuts."

Are you a bad driver?

No, I'm a great driver.

You got pulled over in a golf cart; you can't be that good. What happened there?

My friend Taylor lived on the golf course. The worst thing we ever did was take a golf cart, and we were driving on a main road when we were 15. It was a country club road, and we went on the sidewalk. A police officer pulled us over. She asked us if we had a permit or registration. But she let us go.

Who was driving?

I think I was. That was the worst trouble we got into. There was never drinking or anything like that.

You ever been out drinking?

No. I don't drink.

__What happened after you won at Evian and Lorie Kane [Creamer's designated Big Sister on tour] took you out to celebrate? __

I was with everybody, and I was the designated driver. I drank water.

But still no OK on the car from your dad?

I guess that's the last thing he has control over. . . . That's the last thing before I buy a house. I keep telling him, "Dad, eventually I need to get a car." And I really want a dog. One I can travel with.

What's the nicest thing you've bought for your parents?

I told my mom that when I won an event I was going to buy her a name-brand purse. I did. I bought her a Louis Vuitton bag. It's a beautiful bag. I bought my dad clothes, but he doesn't like gifts. He doesn't like being given clothes, even if they're for free; he isn't like that. I bought him a new wallet that he wanted.

What's the nicest thing you've bought for yourself?

Most expensive? There are a lot of things that are nice to me, but they aren't nice to other people. I really wanted that bag. [Points to a bag on the chair.] I wanted that bag forever. I put a picture of that purse in my wallet. Actually I still have it. [Starts fishing through her wallet.] I kept it in there because it was hard for me to save money, and if it was in there it would help me. [She finds the picture of the Vuitton purse on a neatly folded page from People magazine.] Here it is. I keep it in there to remind me that's what I wanted.

How long have you had that?

I wonder if the issue date is on it. . . . It doesn't say. Probably four years. Look, there's Britney Spears, still dating Justin Timberlake.

Speaking of that: Britney or Christina Aguilera?

Britney. . . . I don't know, that's tough. Britney is kind of weird now. I'd say right now . . . Christina.

Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood?

Kelly Clarkson.

Cats or dogs?

Dogs.

Tom Brady or Joe Montana?

Tom Brady. No, Joe Montana, 49ers. Tom Brady is cuter, but Joe Montana is the man.

MTV or VH1?

MTV.

Rap or rock?

Rap. Depending on the mood. Probably rap more, though.

__"The OC" or "Laguna Beach"? __

OC -- it's one of my favorite shows.

Favorite movie?

I like "Shrek." I like "Pretty Woman." "Curly Sue." I like "Dirty Dancing." Every girl likes "Dirty Dancing." [Does her best Patrick Swayze impression.] "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." [Laughs.]

Thumbs up or down on Harry Potter?

Up. I read the first one, and I'm in the middle of the second one.

Jack or Arnie?

You can't ask that question; that's tough. I've met them both. Can I say both? Both.

Tiger or Phil?

Gosh. I'd go Tiger.

Wie or Pressel?

You can't do that! Morgan won't give up on the golf course. Neither will Michelle. Michelle is an awesome player, but . . . that's tough. You have a three-footer to win a tournament but can't putt it. You have to have Michelle or Morgan putt it for you. Who are you going with? [Pause.] It doesn't really matter. They're both going to make it.

Good answer.

That is good, right? [Smiles.]

Have you talked to Michelle or Annika about playing on the PGA Tour?

When I talk to other golfers, the last thing I want to do is talk about golf.

Do you want to play an event against the guys on the PGA Tour?

I have no desire right now. I'm really focusing on women's golf. Maybe down the road.

After playing your way onto the U.S. Solheim Cup team in just six months, you were pretty bold predicting a U.S. win.

My dad said, "That's a big statement." I didn't think it was that big. I was so excited. Here I am, I took second at a tournament, the whole team is standing behind me, and Nancy Lopez asks me to speak. And I say we're going to win. It was hard to think we weren't going to win.

What other major sports figure called his shot and then delivered?

Oh, I know this! I was just compared to him for calling my shot. It's so big, I know this. I forget his name. Michael? Was it in basketball?

Babe Ruth.

No, not Babe Ruth. Was it? That's not who I was thinking of.

He once called his shot on a home run in the World Series.

There was someone else, too. [The next day Creamer calls and leaves a message.] "Hey, Matt! It's Paula Creamer. I figured out who else guaranteed a win: It was Joe Namath before Super Bowl III. See, I told you there was someone else! OK, bye." [The interview resumes, then picks up again days later after Creamer's phone call.]

Good point on Namath. You were right.

I told you!

Did you follow baseball as a kid in Northern California?

We went to games, but I was never really into it much.

Name 10 baseball teams.

Oakland A's. Red Sox. Yankees. Giants. [Long pause.] Let me think. [Long pause.] The Cubs. [Given a clue: Florida . . .] Mariners? [Laughs when told they're from Seattle.] There's also the White Sox. Astros. Lightning is hockey. I know this . . . Angels. Dodgers! Yes, that's 10!

Name five football teams.

I know football teams. The Raiders, 49ers, Buccaneers, Packers and I'll say the Dallas Cowboys.

Are you a fan of golf history?

I'm trying to learn more. Because it's my profession I've been reading books about it. I need to learn more, definitely. There's no reason why anybody who plays a sport shouldn't know the history. Growing up I didn't read a lot about it, but I am now.

How old was Tiger when he won his first professional event?

[Long pause.] Twenty, right? [Lets out a screech and gives a fist pump when told she is correct.]

What year did Bobby Jones win the Grand Slam?

I don't know.

What are the five majors on the Champions Tour?

Senior Open. . . . I hope they have one in Europe. I don't know. Is that bad?

How many times has Jack finished second in a major?

I think he's finished second more than he won, right?

Correct. If Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's home-run record, is that good or bad for baseball?

I don't know. I guess breaking any record is good.

You and your parents left the Bay Area for Bradenton, Fla., just after you turned 14 so you could attend the David Leadbetter Golf Academy at the IMG Academies. What other high-profile athletes came through there to train or go to school while you were there?

Freddy Adu, Maria Sharapova, Michael Johnson, Serena and Venus [Williams], Anna Kournikova. Alex Smith trained there before the [NFL] scouting combine. So many great athletes. I don't know much about other sports, but when you're around someone who only wants to win, that rubs off on you.

Who are the golfers you'd like to meet?

I've never been at the same place at the same time as Tiger. I'd like to meet him. I haven't met a lot of golfers. Isn't that weird?

I met Phil. I just met Ernie last night. I did an outing with him. He said his recovery [from a knee injury] is going so fast. You could tell he was dying to get back on the golf course. He is sooo nice. So cool, so down to earth. I ate dinner with him, and I was star-struck.

Did he give you any advice?

He told me to stay focused on what I wanted to do. He told me it's important to enjoy it, because you never know when it could go away. . . . He's a big guy. I couldn't believe how tall he is.

Who else have you met?

The most memorable person is Arnold Palmer. We were both playing Pebble when I was 18. He walked all the way down from another green and introduced himself. He said, "Paula, you're amazing." I said, "Hey, there's no amazing here. If anybody is amazing, it's you." He gave me the pin off his collar, a little umbrella. He stood there and watched me hit a shot. It was very special. I'll never forget that.

Of the big-time athletes you've met, who else was exceptionally nice?

Michael Johnson [former Olympic track-and-field gold-medalist] was great. I never met Serena or Venus. The football players would always give me a hard time, and I'm not sure why. I guess because I'm a golfer. They're so competitive that when they get beat they don't like it -- and when they get beat by a girl, it's even worse.

Alex Smith [the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft] was very nice. We would practice together. He's a pretty good player, about a 10. We had a bet going at one point: If I won, he'd have to work out in my pink Yankee shirt and a pink hat. If he won, I'd have to work out in his jersey. All of these football players came out to cheer him on. I won. I tried to find the smallest shirt I had. It barely fit over his neck, and it didn't cover his stomach. Everyone took pictures. He probably doesn't like me after that.

The academy is where you got to know Casey Wittenberg?

He went to the academy, and we still work with the same coach. He gave me the nickname Pink Panther because I always wear something pink. Now when we talk about it he says, "Paula, I didn't give you that name." I say, "Yes you did." We were standing on the range and he said, "Pink Panther: That's your new nickname." Now I think he's embarrassed about it because every interview I do, I tell people Casey Wittenberg gave it to me.

__You mentioned your coach [David Whelan]. I'm told he's tough to beat from 100 yards. __

He's the best wedge player I've ever seen. He doesn't play golf much. I hate that: I play golf every day, and then he goes out and beats me. We play a nine-hole match, playing every hole from 100 yards sometimes, and I can't beat him. I've gotten better. I can now keep it close. In the beginning I was like, "Holy cow, Paula, you are terrible." Casey and I would play against him, and it was no contest. David's a phenomenal chipper. He always says that the day I can beat him I'll have one of the best short games out there. It'll be the sign that everything is coming together.

Could you beat Casey in a match from the back tees?

I would hope so. Why not? Obviously he's an awesome player. He has a huge advantage over me from the back tees because he hits it a long way, but if we played five times I bet I'd win once. That's pretty good. I know that every time we'd step up on the first tee I'd have to play really well to win.

I played in that skins game in Boise against Jason Gore. Everybody thought I talked a lot of trash to him, but you don't understand: This guy was outdriving me by 100 yards, and I was hitting my 4-iron to 10 feet, and his wedges were 50 feet. That was exciting. I know he was tired because it was the day after his win, but still . . . I think my irons can play with anybody.

You can't keep up with my irons.

Bring it. . . . Bring it.

If you played David Duval right now, who would win?

From my tees? He'd probably like it from my tees. [Laughs.] I'm so competitive I'd like to say I'd win most. That would be fun. I'd like to do that.

What about playing against Casey from your tees?

I'd win most from my tees because it's a different game for him.

__[After the session a call is placed to Wittenberg, and he's told what Creamer had to say. "Oh, she did," Wittenberg says. Given a chance to respond, he laughs: "Ask her about shaving her hairy arms."] __

Casey told me to ask you about shaving your arms.

I don't shave my arms. I waxed my arms, like a month ago, but I would never shave them. Taylor and I were always obsessed with how we looked, and we always wondered why we had so much hair on our body. People would make fun of us, but we would never shave our arms; that'd be disgusting. . . . Please don't put that in there. [Laughs.]

Is there anything else that nobody knows about Paula Creamer that you can share?

I'm obsessed with my weight, the way I look, my body. I don't starve myself, but I care a lot about first impressions. I don't always get dolled up, but I care what my body looks like. I know I need to work out, but doing it is hard.

How many days a week do you work out?

When I'm home, I work out every day. When I'm on the road, I did it at the beginning of the year, but then I got tired, and there's not enough time. But I made a promise to myself that I'll keep it up through the whole year.

Michael Johnson told me about how he used to train for the Olympics. He wouldn't train for that certain distance, he'd train for a little farther, so he could feel like he was running through the finish line. If I want to be the best player in the world, that's something I have to do. Even if my favorite show is on, I have to work out.

What's your opinion on steroids and sports?

It isn't necessary. You don't need it for golf.

Is golf steroid-free?

I hope to say it is, but you never know.

You're trying to get stronger. Do you take any supplements?

No, no supplements. I take protein.

No 'roid shots in the butt?

No. [Laughs.] I'm not going to do that. I hate needles. That pretty much guarantees I'll never take that stuff.

What do you think of Natalie Gulbis doing some swimsuit poses for her calendars?

It's her decision what she does. Natalie and I are good friends. She has the body to do it, so why not? She's brought another aspect to women's golf, and that's a positive thing.

And the Paula Creamer calendar?

I'm shooting one in the offseason, but it isn't going to be in bathing suits. It's going to be me in my golf clothes.

__We mentioned the Solheim Cup earlier. I read that you played a joke on Donna Caponi [Nancy Lopez's assistant captain]. __

On singles day, I came running downstairs from the locker room and said, "Donna, my driver just broke." She said, "Are you serious?" I was asking her what I should do. "I tee off in an hour." I told her it was my special driver. She starts freaking out with the radio, trying to call someone. She offered me her driver, but I told her it wouldn't work. Then I told her I was kidding, and she was like, "I'm going to kill you!"

I'm like that. I play a lot of jokes on people. I just don't take it real well when they give it back. I'm learning how to deal with it because I give it out so much.

What was the problem with Laura Davies' caddie after you and Juli Inkster beat her and Maria Hjorth in alternate shot?

How did you hear about that?

I have my sources.

Well, I didn't see it happen, but supposedly after Juli made the winning putt and we were celebrating and hugging, I'm told Laura's caddie took my ball out of the hole and chucked it into the water. I didn't know anything about it, I was so excited. Somehow Colin [Creamer's caddie, Colin Cann] found out and asked me, "Do you know where your ball is?" It would have been nice to have. The next day we played with Laura, and her caddie came over and said, "I'm sorry about throwing your ball in the water. It was more of a joke." At least he said sorry. Looking back, I was a little upset. It's OK. Things happen.

Then you get Laura in the singles. Was that any extra incentive?

I thought about it. After I won I said, "Here, do you want this ball?"

You said that?

No. [Laughs.] No. Laura is just an unbelievable person. She's such a classy woman. At Evian, on the last hole when I had an eight-shot lead, I was nervous. Laura said, "Paula, you have eight shots. You can hit it O.B. twice, and you'd still win." She told me to enjoy it.

So here she was in the final round at Evian helping you win, and then you go out and beat her, 7 and 5, at the Solheim Cup? Did you feel bad about how lopsided it was?

[Pause.] No. She'd want to do it to me. When we're on the golf course, it's all business.

Where do you get your competitive streak?

My dad. He's competitive. I don't know why, but I've always been that way. I don't like to lose. If someone beats me, so be it, but I can guarantee the next week I'll play my butt off to redeem myself.

Your dad is a pilot for American Airlines. What does your mom do?

Takes care of me, which is a big enough job.

Was your dad flying on September 11?

He wasn't in the air. He was on a layover, and that morning, before the planes crashed, he had driven home to Bradenton from Tampa.

Where were you?

In school, in math class. One of the kids in my class, his dad worked in the World Trade Center. His mom called him in class, and that's how we all found out. Fortunately his dad had left the building earlier and wasn't there when the planes hit.

It was weird. All of the planes across the country ended up being grounded, and we heard a plane coming over our school. We all ran to the windows, and we saw Air Force One fly by, because Bush was in Florida at that time and the airport is only 10 minutes from the school. I called my mom and dad; everyone was fine.

How did you end up at the academy?

I found out about it when I was young. I told my dad that I heard there was a real good golf academy. I didn't know where it was, but I asked him to research it. He did, and we ended up going there twice. The first time we went there I got hives on the way to the airport. It was awful. We had to go to the emergency room. I was allergic to something. I thought that wasn't a good sign. After I got some shots we still ended up going, and once we were there I thought that it was the most unbelievable place.

At the time Ty Tryon was there, and I was in his group for a couple of days. Just to be able to be around golfers like that . . . growing up in California the competition wasn't as good, and that's one of the real reasons we went to Florida. Just being there was a feeling I'll never forget. Leaving I was so depressed because I wanted to stay. That's what I wanted to do. You know me, we get home, it was a couple of months, and I was walking around, being a little baby, and so my parents eventually asked if I wanted to go back. I did, and we went back that summer. We each took two suitcases and the clubs. We've been there ever since.

How did that work with your dad's job?

That was one of the main reasons we could do it. He could transfer his base to Miami. If he hadn't been able to do that, we wouldn't have been able to go.

What was life like at the academy?

It was like a fairy tale. It has everything you need to become the player you want to be. You aren't forced to do anything; it's up to you. It has physical fitness, media training and mental training.

Did you ever think about quitting?

If anybody wanted to go home, it was my parents. I was so driven to stay there, live there and train. They missed their friends and their everyday life. It was harder for them than it was for me.

How hard did you have to fight to keep your parents in Florida?

It was more like, if I got in trouble, they would say, "We're going home." I knew what I wanted to do. I knew if we stayed in Northern California I wouldn't become the No. 1 player. I could have done it, but it wouldn't have been easy. Was there extra pressure to succeed because your parents had sacrificed so much for you to be there?

There was, but that wasn't what motivated me. It was in the back of my mind, but ultimately I put the most pressure on myself.

You were a gymnast before taking up golf. How good were you?

I was too tall for the bars and the beam. I really just did floor exercises. I later became an acrobatic dancer. I brought that tumbling aspect to a dance company. I did themes; I incorporated that with tap. I would tumble in tap shoes. I was good. We traveled all over and won lots of big events.

I fell at one point when I was trying to do tricks. Ever since I fell, it was never really the same. I was scared. I remember that feeling of falling, and I didn't like tumbling anymore. Then I found golf, and it was a blessing.

What exactly happened when you fell?

I was doing a full twist, or something like that. I landed on my neck, and I heard something crack and pop, and I thought I was paralyzed. I just laid there and started crying. It still gives me chills just thinking about it.

Then came golf?

In sixth grade I had to decide whether to be a cheerleader or play on the golf team. My dad asked me, "Do you want to cheer for someone, or do you want them to cheer for you?" I sat there and I thought about it. Actually that night, when I had to decide, I said, "I want them to cheer for me."

At what point did you know you were going to be good?

I went from shooting 90 to shooting low 80s, then 70s, very fast. I had great teachers who made it fun. I like to be by myself, and when you're out on the golf course it's just you and the game. My first AJGA [American Junior Golf Association] event was a big field, which is why I got in: They took twice as many girls as other events, and I took seventh. Aree and Naree [Song] were there; it was a huge event. To play against those amateurs, knowing how good they were . . . I knew at that point I could possibly do this every day.

In terms of going pro when you did: If you hadn't gotten your card that day at the final round of 2004 Q school, would you have enrolled in college?

Possibly. That's why I stayed an amateur until then. If I got my card, great; if I didn't, I would have had to think. I did get my card on the Futures Tour just to make sure I had a place to play no matter what. If I got my LPGA card, I was going pro.

What was your biggest fear?

Not meeting my expectations. Falling into the trap of what everybody else thought was going to happen.

Like a Ty Tryon?

A little bit. I was afraid of not doing well. Not making a living.

If you had gone to college, which one would you have picked?

I was going to go to Stanford or Oklahoma State. I was also thinking about the University of Arizona.

Should the LPGA lower the minimum age for membership?

I think 18 is a good age. It depends on the maturity level of the person. People thought I was crazy to turn pro at 18, and now Michelle is 16 and she's a professional. Eighteen is a good age because you can make your own decisions. You're in college at that point, so I think it's a good age.

What were your thoughts about Michelle being disqualified in her pro debut?

I was very surprised when I heard it because it's such a basic rule. Michelle also had a very experienced caddie with her, so I'm not really sure how it could have happened. To drop one to two feet closer to the hole is a mistake that I'm sure she regrets.

__What's your reaction to people saying all "this" is happening too fast for you? __

That's their opinion. I don't think it's happened fast enough. There's a lot I wanted to do this year that I didn't do. I wanted to win a major. That was a big goal of mine. It didn't happen. For three days I would play well in a lot of the majors, but I couldn't finish it off. I'm aware of it. I've won four times, but it's interesting that people think that I've moved too fast.

Are you the second-best female player in the world right now?

Well, I guess that's what it is. It sounds pretty cool. You don't normally hear it. You always hear, "The No. 1 player in the world." You never hear, "The No. 2 player in the world in women's golf."

Do you get the sense that Annika is territorial about her No. 1 status?

Oh, yeah. Are you kidding? We're friends, but she knows everybody out there wants to beat her. She's the best.

You're clearly a goal-setter and achiever. What's next?

No. 1 player in the world. To get stronger and longer. I definitely need to get longer. I need to add 20 yards. That would be two clubs, and that would be good. I think that's going to take a little while. Looking at the statistics, it took Annika two and a half to three years to do that. I think I can do it faster than that. But I'm kind of where she was at one point in her career. She was about 50th in driving distance, and now she's at three or something. I think I can do that jump. I think I have to do that to be the No. 1 player in the world. To win a major is on the list. My ultimate goal is to win a Grand Slam.

To win a career Slam, or all in one year?

All in one year.

Right now life on tour includes Mom and Dad. Will that always be the case?

I'll eventually be on my own. It might be Mom only or Dad only. Until I can learn what it's like to travel, it's good to have them both with me.

That's contrary to what most 19-year-olds might think.

Well, there are times when I want to say, "Let me do it; let me learn." We have that all of the time. I say, "I can stay on my own. I can have my own room." They say, "Well, will you go to bed? Will you turn the lights out?" I say, "Yeah, eventually." They do so much for me. I don't even know everything they do for me. If all of a sudden they left, it'd be culture shock. I think I'd lose my focus on the course.

Is your dad hard on your boyfriends?

I have this one guy friend who was so scared of my dad he didn't talk to him for five months. Finally I told my dad, "He is so scared of you; you should get to know him." So he did. My dad was like, "There's nothing to be scared of." I guess he gives off that vibe, but he's really great with my friends. He knows I have to be very focused, and my friends know that as well. It's all about golf.

What was your worst date?

I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16, when I started dating Tarik Can. I met him at the academy. We've been dating for about three years; he's 20 now, playing golf at Augusta State. Tarik says he thinks he can get me on Augusta National. I have to work on that.

I guess our first date was kind of weird. We walked to it because neither of us had our driver's license. We walked to Beef O'Brady's. Have you even been to Beef O'Brady's? It's like a sports bar. When we were walking there I was like, "Where are we going?" I thought we were going to go to a nice place. There's nothing wrong with Beef O'Brady's, but for a first date, that was a little weird.

Are you a better golfer than Tarik?

You can't ask these questions! I think I am. He doesn't think so, but I do. But we don't play golf together anymore because it's too competitive.

As a girlfriend, are you high-maintenance?

Probably. I expect a lot. [Laughs.] But he's also high-maintenance.

Have you had any marriage proposals?

It actually happens a lot. At Solheim Cup these guys had these big signs: "Paula, will you marry me?" They were older than me. I mean, gosh. I get asked out on dates a lot. Which is weird. There was another one in Rochester; he asked me to marry him. Someone asked me to go to prom with them. I got asked to go to graduation.

What do you say?

I just laugh. I say, "What are you doing?"

Where will you be in 10 years?

Ten years? I'll be 29. . . . Hopefully I'll have accomplished everything I want to: I'll have played good enough golf, and I'll have made tons of money. I want to play golf until I win the Grand Slam. I want to have a family. I want to have children. I've always wanted one girl, like me. Now I think I want to have a boy, so I'm leaning toward one boy and one girl. No more than two.

What if you have triplets?

Oh, boy. My mom better live close.

You can have a family and children and continue to play at the highest level? Juli Inkster can do it, so why not? She's an incredible woman; I admire her so much. She has it all. Family. She loves what she does. She has fun, and she's done so much for women's golf.

What if golf doesn't work out? What if five years from now you're out of the game?

That's a scary thought. I'd be going to school. I'd want to be doing something in the fashion industry, but I don't even want to think like that.

You have one putt for your life. How far can the ball be from the hole and you'd still feel comfortable making it?

For my life? An inch! If I'm putting for my life, I'd be nervous.

An inch?

I don't want to die! I might go with, "hanging on the lip." That might be better. I feel comfortable from five feet, six feet, seven feet, but we're talking about my life. I mean, Helllloooo.