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Creamer: Five years at the academy

SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, ARIZ. -- Two months into her rookie season, Paula Creamer is on her way to having the most successful opening year among players who skipped college to join the LPGA Tour.

Of the first eight players to make the preps-to-pros leap, only Amy Alcott (1975) and Dorothy Delasin (2000) won a tournament as a rookie. Alcott's 15th-place finish on the money list is the best of the group.

Creamer, through her first six tournaments, is 10th on the money list and has two top-10 finishes. She is poised to break through into the winner's circle soon, possibly even this week at the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill.

"She's up to winning this year," says ESPN/ABC commentator Judy Rankin. "It's fairly clear she has the ability to do this. Her game is ready for the tour."

Creamer played the tour's qualifying tournament last fall as an amateur but turned professional after winning the event.

"I don't think there was a specific time or date," she says. "It was a lot of different things that happened the past couple years and mainly last year."

The last couple years: In 2003, Creamer was the nation's top-ranked female amateur player and the American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year. In 2003-04, she reached the semifinals of both the U.S. Junior Girls and Women's Amateur.

Last year: Playing in seven tour events, Creamer made every cut and had five to- 20 finishes, including a second place in the ShopRite Classic.
"(Turning pro) came faster than we thought," says Creamer's mom, Karen.

Early last year, Paula started thinking about turning pro for the 2004 season. Parents Paul and Karen laid out a proving plan for their only child.

"We wanted her to know what it's like to live on tour," Karen says. "She said, 'If I can show you that I can play and compete out there, will you consider it?' She was going to try and show us she can play out here. And she did."

By golf standards, Creamer got a late start - she didn't start playing until age 10. Her first focus as a youth was in competition dance. When a mother of one of her dancing teammates gave an hour golf clinic, Creamer was sold.

"I got hooked - I loved the pressure of having to make a putt to win a tournament," she says.

After her seventh-grade year, Paula and her parents visited the David Leadbetter Academy in Florida to explore possibly moving to work with the famous swing instructor and his staff. She spent five years at the academy.

"(Going to the academy) was one of the greatest things that has happened to me," Creamer says. "The atmosphere was remarkable and I was very lucky to have gone there."

Like the other top players, her goal is to challenge Annika Sorenstam atop the money list.

"My goal," Creamer says, "is to be the number one player in the world, and I'm going to do everything it takes to get there."

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