LPGA mom Leta Lindley balances family and high-profile career without losing her competitive edge. LPGA player Leta Lindley is on the road a lot, but she rarely travels without her entourage: husband Matt Plagmann, 3-year-old son Cole, and nine-month-old daughter Reese.
“Matt’s caddied for me almost my entire career,” she says. “We both went to [The University of] Arizona, and when I went out on tour, he came with me. We’ve always been a team at this, so not much has changed except the two additions to our team.”
Lindley’s mother also helps out while the family is traveling, and the Smucker’s LPGA Child Development Center provides mobile daycare so pro-golf moms know their kids are in good hands while they’re on the course. “I’m lucky that my job allows me to take them with me,” Lindley says. “Obviously that’s not the case for a lot of traveling moms, but I do have that opportunity and not to take advantage of it I think would be a mistake.”
LPGA maternity policy allowed Lindley to stay competitive by playing a reduced schedule during and after pregnancy while maintaining her playing rights for the following year. “I have never been able to play very long into my two pregnancies,” Lindley says. “I would hit the ball 20 yards shorter and my body would not react like usual.” Four months into her pregnancy with Reese, she says, “I just packed it in and decided to be a mom, so I scrapbooked and embraced the time I had with my son. It was a time to enjoy my pregnancy, not be frustrated about it.”
It’s been almost a year now since 35-year-old Lindley returned to LPGA competition; she started practicing when Reese was six weeks old and returned to the circuit in February 2007. TravelingMom.com founder Kim Orlando recently caught up with Lindley to find out how she keeps her family on par.
TMOM: You don’t look like you had a baby nine months ago. Did you hit the fitness trail right after you had her?
LETA: Yes I did, I was doing Pilates two times a week and lifting weights two times a week. I didn’t actually put on that much weight with my daughter, it was probably only 19 pounds, and that’s because my two-and-a-half year old, at the time, would make me carry him up and down the stairs. So I’d be nine months pregnant carrying a 30-pound child up and down the stairs.
TMOM: And now you’re traveling again, and you’re not easing into it.
LETA: Oh my gosh, on my first trip we took the kids to Hawaii all the way from Florida. I couldn’t believe how good my three-year-old was. We connected in Houston, so from Houston to Honolulu it’s like eight, eight-and-a-half hours, and he did not get up from his seat except one time to use the restroom.
TMOM: So how did you prepare for that trip? Do you have some must-packs items?
LETA: DVD player. My daughter isn’t into it yet, but for my son it’s a must-have. I packed coloring books and crayons and Wikki Stix.
TMOM: So it’s the four of you and a couple of nannies or just the four of you?
LETA: It was just the four of us. Our attitude was going to be, have a lot of patience and a good sense of humor, because we knew it was going to be hard. [But] if I can’t do it this way, then I am not going to do it at all.
LETA: Because the kids change so much. We went to Mexico earlier this year and I left them for six days with a gal who helped us over the winter and I came back and I barely recognized [Reese] after six days. I felt that she had changed so much that to leave her for a month or three weeks — I just couldn’t do it. If we can’t do it this way as a family, then it’s time for me to retire and move on. It’s a special time; they’re never going to be babies again and pretty soon they’re going to be independent. To not embrace this time I think would be a huge mistake and I would look back with tremendous regret.
TMOM: So any plans or thoughts yet for the future, when the kids go to school?
LETA: I think that when that time comes, I am going to have to look at where I am with my golf. If I am still enjoying it, if I’m still competitive, and if I decide to keep playing, then my husband would stay home with Cole and I would travel with Reese by myself or with my mom, and [Matt and Cole] would join us in the summer. We’d see how it goes. I really do take one year at a time.
TMOM: You have been away from the kids on other trips, like when you went to play in California.
LETA: I like to think that being away sometimes makes me a better mommy, you know, by having some time to myself or doing things apart from my children, I come back a more sane mommy.
TMOM: I think that’s an important message for other moms, that it’s OK to leave the kids sometimes.
LETA: I never felt bad about leaving my son in daycare on tour. Obviously it helped because I know all the moms and I know all the children, so it’s a little different situation than maybe daycare at home. When my son was 13 weeks old, that was our first tournament back, and he painted his first picture. I thought, this is so cool, I would never have thought to let my 13-week-old paint a picture. They stripped him down to his diaper, poured some white paint on blue construction paper and let him run his fingers through it. I still have his picture. I was just so excited that he was experiencing things that maybe as a first-time mom I wouldn’t have ever thought to do. I think the experience has been good for him. And as long as my children continue to thrive and I don’t feel like I am hurting them in any way, then we will be able to make this work.
TMOM: You took time off and then you came back and proved to yourself that you could do it again if you needed to.
LETA: Exactly, and a lot of it is a leap of faith. What’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work out, you do something else. At the end of the day my children are the most important, and if it’s good for them, it’s good for me.
Leta kicked off the 2008 LPGA Tour season on the island of Hawaii followed by Singapore, and she will play in Mexico and Phoenix over the next two months. For tournament and player information, go to LPGA.com.
Liz Warren-Pederson lives in Arizona and is currently trying to parent a rambunctious puppy.