Moms in Sports.

 

A few days ago, my editor sent me an e-mail about 37-year-old golfer extraordinaire Annika Sorenstam’s decision to step down from the world of professional golf.

 

Sorenstam -- the third all-time winningest female golfer with 72 victories and $22 million in winnings since she started playing professionally in 1994 -- was, in her words, “stepping away from competition.” Among the reasons Sorenstam gave for her departure was that she wanted to start a family with her soon-to-be husband. She maintained that if she couldn’t give golf 100 percent attention, “then I don’t want to give any. So it’s either on or it’s not.”

 

In her e-mail to me, my editor noted: “Tiger didn’t have to retire [to have a family]. Interesting.” Interesting indeed. Tiger Woods, 32, became a father last year and simply continued playing golf after he became a dad without missing a beat (although he’s currently recuperating from knee surgery). Intrigued, I started looking up news stories on Sorenstam and other female professional athletes who’d made a variety of lifestyle choices. Here’s what I found:

 

I found a Denver Post column, a Mother’s Day piece, in which writer Woody Paige named several female professional athletes who have children and continued competing at the highest levels of their sport after becoming mothers. Paige referenced a Canadian pro golfer who played in an L.P.G.A. tournament while six months pregnant. A professional soccer player – who’d been a part of several World Cup competitions and was on a couple of Olympic teams – had three children during her competitive years. A world class marathoner won the New York City Marathon less than a year after giving birth.

 

I stumbled upon a golfing blog which, in 2007, profiled several prominent female golfers who had to literally shorten their putters when their growing bellies started interfering with their swing. At the time of the blog entry, three L.P.G.A. players were pregnant. Perusing through the official L.P.G.A. web site, I found an article entitled, “Moms on Tour,” where several professional golfing mothers – some with very young children – fielded questions about balancing sports and motherhood. One golfer, Kristi Albers said she believed she could be pregnant and still play on the Tour. Meanwhile golfer Juli Inkster said: “I thought I could do both. I didn’t really know what to expect but I thought it shouldn’t be that hard. Boy was I wrong. Playing golf and having a child was the hardest thing I’ve ever done . . . It took me a year or two to really settle in with what I was doing.”