It’s all about family for Swedish golf pro Carin Koch. Conventional wisdom holds that motherhood complicates careers – but like other LPGA moms, Carin Koch, it has been a new source of motivation, and a key to her success on the course.
Koch grew up in Kungalv, Sweden, and learned to play golf at the age of nine with her father’s encouragement. “He would take me out by bribing me with the promise of either chocolate or ice cream,” she explains. “Then the goals got loftier, like a new club when I reached a certain handicap or made a low score. Before I knew it, I liked the competition and he did not have to ask me twice to play!”
When she was 18, Koch met her husband Stefan at her home club in Sweden. In 1995 – her rookie year in the LPGA – she and Stefan married. Their first son, Oliver, was born in 1998 and their second son, Simzon, arrived in 2003. The boys have been traveling since infancy, making the long international flight to Sweden from the Koch home base in Phoenix. “Under three-weeks-old it’s easy,” Koch says. “They sleep and wake up to eat every now and then. They adjust pretty good.”
Koch travels with her whole family when possible, but during the school year, her husband stays with second-grader Oliver in Phoenix. “Some of the moms are so involved in everything that goes on with school,” she says. “I just feel like I am so far from all of that because I get home for a couple of weeks and I’ve missed the start of school.” Four-year-old Simzon does come along on tour, though. “I really like it when we travel together, otherwise I would be by myself,” she says. “It makes it a little easier to not be around [Oliver] when I have one with me.”
TravelingMom™ checked in with Koch to see how she charts her family’s course.
TMOM: How do you leave the ‘kiddie stuff’ at home and get out on the green and focus?
CARIN KOCH: You just learn to do it. I think it’s easier now that they’re a little bigger; it was harder when they were babies.
TMOM: But you did it even then, you didn’t take time off.
CARIN KOCH: No, but you do it because you have to. You play for them – it’s my livelihood, so it’s not really a choice.
TMOM: And they like the LPGA daycare?
CARIN KOCH: They love the daycare, but sometimes they cry when I leave them and that is hard. I think it’s the same for every mom. But my kids really haven’t done that too much; they love the daycare and it’s been pretty good.
TMOM: Do you have other role models in pro-golf that you look to, that you can say, she’s doing it, so I can too?
CARiN KOCH: I think Juli [Inkster] has been an inspiration because she’s done it and she’s done it well. She’s a great person and her kids are great. I actually talked to her quite a bit when [Oliver] started first grade. I had a really hard time being away and I asked her for some advice in how to get through that.
TMOM: What advice did you receive that you would share with the next pro-golf mom?
CARIN KOCH: She reminded me that [although] we are away many weeks, we’re also home many weeks and we get to spend a lot of time with our kids that other moms maybe don’t. Working mothers don’t get that much time off; they get weekends, but we get whole weeks [at a time] where we can be home and really enjoy that time.
TMOM: Any must-packs for the kids whenyou travel?
CARIN KOCH: The portable DVD player, I don’t know what I would do without that. We got our first one at a tournament in 2000, so my youngest one was then two-years-old. It’s been the greatest for restaurants and flights. We’ve had boring dinners where we sat for hours and the kids have been underneath the table watching a movie. We have two of them now because sometimes they don’t want to watch the same thing. My older one plays his Gameboy or PSP, but the little one has no interest in that yet.
TMOM: What advice do you have for another mom coming up who’s thinking about getting pregnant?
CARIN KOCH: I tell everyone to [do it]. I actually told my roommate this week — she’s 22 and she was new out here, a little upset– I actually said to her yesterday, [that] I would not have been out here for 12 years if I did not have my family.
TMOM: Really? That’s the opposite of what I would expect.
CARIN KOCH: Well for me, I can’t see myself traveling by myself and having motivation to play and travel. My family has given me all the motivation, they’ve given me the will to play, and it’s just something to come home to that’s so much more important than anything else. When people ask me [about having kids], I say don’t wait too long because people want to wait and wait and wait. There are other girls out here who waited and then they had trouble getting pregnant. My feeling when I had my son — I was 27 with the first one — was like, why did I wait this long, because I enjoyed it so much! I just try and tell people not to wait too long and think, “Oh, I’ve got to do this before and I’ve got to win before.”
For me, I played better after I had kids.
TMOM: That’s interesting.
CAREN KOCH: It just relaxed me. Golf wasn’t everything anymore. I come home to them and they wouldn’t care what my scores were that day. Before then, everything was about golf. If you played good, it was a good day, but after having kids it was like, if I play bad it’s still a good day because my kids were there and who cares. So, for me, becoming a mother improved me as a person and as a golfer because I just relaxed and mellowed out, and that made me play better. Some people say it’s so hard — I’m like, it doesn’t have to be hard. It’s not easy, but the harder you make it, the harder it’s going to be.
Liz Warren-Pederson is a writer based in Arizona. Her brother tried to teach her to golf once, but the only thing she managed to drive was the golf cart – into a tree.