BABIES are an interruption to any career but they play particular havoc with a career spent on the road playing golf tournaments.
Female professional golfers are faced with some big challenges when it comes to deciding when to have babies and whether to continue playing on tour.
There are lots of considerations. Wait for the right time? There is never a good time. Bring baby on tour? Not ideal for bub or mum. Take time off for baby and then return to the tour? Definitely a possibility but loss of form may be an issue and uncertainty around when a return could happen, if at all. Wait until career is fully established? Put career first and face trying to conceive at 40 or potentially miss out completely? That is a sad reality for many women today.
Unlike many workplaces, there is no maternity payout for professional golfers and the tour waits for no one. The bills still have to be paid and careers forge on, year after year. There is a small window to make your mark if you want children, as the inevitable is to exit the game for an extended period of time or, perhaps, for good. The window for conception in a woman’s life is considered to be the years between 18 and 32, according to medical experts. Left any later and the potential for infertility problems rises. That 14-year time span also happens to be prime time not only for producing offspring but also for peaking in terms of on-course performance.
Lorena Ochoa left the game at the peak of her career, announcing that she wanted to focus on having a family. She shocked the golf world, having reigned as world No.1 for 158 weeks and departing the tour at age 28. Annika Sorenstam also left the game to have children and gave birth to the first of her two kids just before her 39th birthday. These two now devote their time to their family.
American Hall of Famer Juli Inkster had her two daughters and returned to top-level golf for many years. Although she has managed to juggle her family with her career, it is quite uncommon.
The next chapter of babies and family requires as much attention as playing on tour. Life changes forever once that precious cargo arrives. Some will no longer want to be on tour and others may still feel the desire to compete, but this is only achievable if support is available from family members and paid help.
Having a family is a big change for any woman and the notion of giving up a dream, something you have worked tirelessly for, is a hard pill to swallow, even for those who are seemingly struggling. It is something deep within that burns for success and keeps that drive and determination firmly in place. It can be a great conflict psychologically for an elite athlete to suddenly change their mindset from the rigours and demands of professional golf to motherhood and life at home.
There is an element of timing and fate in everything in life, and sometimes events unfold in such a way that determines success or failure. There is no doubt having babies is a huge challenge for a female tour player and no question an interruption to their progress and development in the game. However, those that do have a family are gifted with an experience in life that is second to none. It is rare, if not unheard of, for a woman to wish she hadn’t had a family. So despite the interruptions and inconvenience, to all women out there, if you want to have a family, go for it with all your heart and take your chances with whatever life presents at a later date.
• Annabel Rolley is a golf professional www.annabelrolley.com