In just two months’ time, Amy Olson is set to become a mother. But before she embraces parenthood, Olson has a golf tournament to try and win – the US Women’s Open, no less.
“One of my longest dreams has been to be a professional golfer on the LPGA Tour and the other one is to be a mom,” Olson told CNN ahead of the major, which for the first time in its 104-year history is at California’s fabled Pebble Beach course.
“I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do both of them and this week just feels like the culmination of those two dreams,” added Olson, who is one of the 156-player field teeing off on Thursday.
The American announced her and husband Grant’s impending addition to the family after stamping her ticket to the 78th edition of the major with an impressive qualifying performance in Minnesota at the end of May.
Olson had just one request for the tournament’s organizers: to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches waiting for her at Pebble Beach. Demands suitably satisfied, the 30-year-old will turn her attention to what will be the 194th tournament appearance – and 35th major start – of a 10-year professional career.
After the US Open ends, her maternity leave will begin.
“Women do this all the time,” Olson said. “I want other women who have gone through this that don’t get the cameras on them as they go about their job, as they go about what they do every single day while pregnant, I just want pregnancy and life to be celebrated.
“I love that people are acknowledging that it’s hard but it’s possible. I hope that when other women see me they feel like, ‘you know what, I can do it too.’”
While pregnant, Olson’s workouts have changed drastically, both in format and intensity. Her swing has transformed to be in tune with her body, with Olson using the example of an ice skater to illustrate the change.
When a figure skater wants to turn faster, they bring their arms in, according to Olson. When slowing down is the aim, the arms go out. With the emergence of a baby bump, Olson’s swing has slowed, cutting the distance of her shots in the process.
“As a professional athlete you are very selfish – everything’s about you, everything depends on your schedule and your fitness,” added Olson, who is due to give birth in mid-September.
“When you become a mom, all of a sudden there’s another human that’s far more important than you and doesn’t care that you have a tee time or have something else going on – they need to eat, they need to sleep.
“But I think that’s created that way because we all need that selfishness driven out of us and kids are the perfect way to do it.”
Yet Olson also sees changes beyond her own life, in attitudes towards athlete pregnancy. Examples of sportswomen balancing their careers with childbirth – in the periods before and after pregnancy – are abundant in golf and a host of other sports.
Amateur Brenda Corrie-Kuehn was eight months pregnant when she teed off at the 2001 US Women’s Open, with playing partner Jennifer Greggain well into her second trimester. Just one week later, Corrie-Kuehn’s daughter Rachel was born.
In 2018, Stacy Lewis played the same tournament while four months pregnant. One year later, Nike made further adjustments to its maternity policy to ensure female athletes would not be “adversely impacted financially for pregnancy” after various high-profile athletes criticized its previous policies.
“One of the things that I’ve never wanted to buy into is that pregnancy is somehow a disease,” Olson said. “I’m not ill, I’m not sick, I’m pregnant – my body is made to do this.
“I think being an athlete, in a lot of ways, I’m incredibly lucky because fitness has been part of my life just naturally and I think it’s helped the pregnancy go well. In some ways, yes, it impedes your career – I wouldn’t recommend anyone just gaining 25 pounds for performance in golf – but I also think there’s a mindset of gaining a little perspective and balance in new life recognizing there are different seasons.
“There’s a season for us as women to pursue a career, to pursue a passion or a dream we’ve had since childhood, but there’s also a time to become a mother and you don’t want to look back at the end of your life and realize that I sacrificed one of these at the exclusion of the other.”
‘The hardest thing I’ve ever done’
This week will mark Olson’s seventh start at the US Women’s Open, a tournament she came within a whisker of winning three years ago and one touched by tragedy.
A shot off the lead heading into the last 18 holes, all focus on chasing a first major evaporated on the eve of the final round when Olson’s father-in-law unexpectedly died Saturday night.
Overcome with grief, the North Dakota-born golfer stayed within striking distance of the championship, only to be leapfrogged late on when South Korean A Lim Kim birdied her final three holes to tie the record for the largest comeback ever seen at the major.
Olson finished tied runner-up, just one stroke behind. Alongside a second-placed finish at the 2018 Evian Championship, it remains the closest she has ever been to a major – or LPGA Tour – crown.
“That tournament was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, having to compete in the middle of overwhelming grief that was extremely sudden,” Olson recalled.
“The biggest thing I learned is that you just have to take one step at a time, one shot at a time.
You can’t get ahead of yourself and win the battles of what’s coming up over the next hour or the next few days.
“You can’t do it all at once – you just have to stay in the moment and fight the battle that is right in front of you. I think that’s a lesson we can all learn.”
This week, history beckons at a landmark tournament. Women’s golf’s oldest major is finally touching down at Pebble Beach, a course that has already captivated Olson with its beauty.
The question is, should a fairytale come to life and Olson lifts the trophy come Sunday, will it somehow be worked into the baby’s name?
“I think we’ll deal with that if that opportunity comes,” Olson laughed.
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