By Ryan Ballengee
For Morgan Pressel, the very chilly conditions at Trump National Bedminster just did not register with her.
"We don't really deal with this kind of thing where I'm from," said the West Palm Beach resident. Having flown up to the New York City area to participate in American Express' USGA Champions Experience, Pressel was playing in a golf outing on one of the worst possible days to do it.
She was stationed at Trump National Bedminster New Course's 14th hole - an island green par three totally exposed to the wind and sleet that was added on top of cold temperatures. Having to get by like the rest of the golfers by using hand warmers and ear flaps, Pressel toughed it out like all of the participants. She met and greeted groups as they passed through her hole, playing it out with them. Pressel made some small chat for the ten minutes with that group, returned to the tee on a golf cart, and repeated the process.
At the end of the outing, she helped hand out awards to the winning participants. After that, she made the small trek to Far Hills, NJ, to speak about her 2005 US Women's Amateur win at the USGA headquarters. She fielded questions from fans.
The cold, rainy outing at Trump National is symbolic of the kind of life Pressel must feel she is living sometimes: anonymous golfers passing through, shaking hands, and disappearing again.
It was all a part of a day's work for Pressel, who is one busy woman indeed.
Later in the day, Pressel would be in the city at Chelsea Piers to attend the LPGA Tour's corporate outing, which included an update on the tour that makes her very livelihood. The next day would include a trip to Polo Ralph Lauren's NYC headquarters to take a look at what the fashion icon had coming down the pipe for next year.
Pressel spends nine months of the year away from home. That West Palm Beach in Florida that she referenced to me is often so distant for her. The forecaddie in our group, Neville, was from Donald Trump's course in Florida. He caddies for Morgan when she is in town to play. For Pressel, it was a connection to home - albeit a brief one.
Between traveling to tournaments, participating in functions like this one, and actually playing the LPGA Tour, Pressel has little time to spend at home with her friends and family. It's not that Pressel prefers to spend time away from the people she cares about most. Rather, it's a condition of being a professional golfer that is a wanted quantity.
Travel can take its toll on a professional whose livelihood is not just supplemented by outings like the one with AmEx, but are actually a very large portion of a pro golfer's income. Speculation was abound earlier this month when it was reported by Forbes that Tiger Woods had passed the billion dollar threshold - despite his having earned less than $100 million in PGA Tour winnings. Almost all of that other purported $900 million came off of the course. Though not on the same scale, the truth for any golfer is that there is more money to be made off of the course than on it.
With success comes more opportunities to make that kind of money. Pressel being a multiple time winner on the LPGA Tour, as well as a major champion, has those kinds of chances. The downside is that the demand requires travel so significant that Pressel lives a near permanent life on the road.
She will be traveling to Korea in a few weeks for the LPGA Tour's second Asian swing of the year. Sponsored by Kapalua in Hawaii, she would have played in that event prior to the Korean trip. But, the tournament was lost when Kapalua could not find a title sponsor to replace their name on the event. Now, it is a one week global excursion for Pressel, who will return to the US after that tournament.
Adjusting to the time change going to Asia is not nearly as trying as it is making the adjustment back into the United States. She will need extra time to adjust in order to finish out the LPGA Tour schedule with a circadian rhythm that is even close to normal - even by her standards.
Pressel and the ladies of the LPGA Tour have way more hours in the air than their PGA Tour peers because of how many international events comprise the dwindling LPGA Tour schedule. In order to make money on the course, Pressel and her fellow players have to traverse the globe. If they're successful, then they keep traveling to private functions. In other words, with success comes more demands on their time - not less.
That makes finding time to practice their craft more challenging. Pressel told a fan that she practices until she "has it," depending on what she is working on with her game. She admits that her wedge has not since been as good as her '05 US Amateur triumph. The task of building upon success on the course is almost more difficult than getting there in the first place.
Despite that, Pressel finds time to engage in charity work, particularly with her Morgan and Friends event that she runs each fall. In just three years, the event and subsequent donations through is has raised nearly $1 million for breast cancer research. Having lost her mother to breast cancer, that event is a crucial one that helps her maintain a connection to her entire family.
When out on the road for three-fourths of the year, someone who is very close to her family like Pressel has to have that kind of connection. Anyone would.
Still, Pressel has clear and true friends amidst the ladies of the LPGA Tour. The weekly grind is better, she says, when she is paired with someone she knows and likes. In other words, it helps to make life inside the ropes a little more like what you and I experience when we play with our friends - a little piece of normal.