GALLOWAY, NEW JERSEY | One of the iconic images of World War II revived by the 75th anniversary of D-Day is that of Rosie the Riveter. Clad in a red scarf with white polka dots in a Norman Rockwell illustration, Rosie represented millions of American women who worked in factories while men went off to fight. But Rosie wouldn’t have been able to wield a rivet gun back then without the kind of help the J.M. Smucker Co. gives to LPGA players now.
As G.G. Wetherill wrote in 1943, “The hand that holds the pneumatic riveter cannot rock the cradle at the same time.” And the hand that holds the golf club cannot rock the cradle at this time. Rosie could work because of subsidized childcare.
For a quarter century, women on the LPGA have been able to do their job because of the Child Development Center supported by Smucker’s. In fact, the earliest children cared for by the LPGA and Smucker’s while their mothers played are now older than seven of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings.
On Thursday at the ShopRite Classic, players including Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller and Karine Icher stopped by a room at the Seaview Hotel that is the site of this week’s LPGA Child Development Center to share in a 25th anniversary cake and offer their thanks to Smucker’s. On this day, the youngest child in the room is 4 months old and the oldest 8 years old.
Since 1993, the Child Development Center has been a traveling preschool. The recognition that women can be both moms and athletes was pioneered by the LPGA and Smucker’s, which created the first childcare center in pro sports, an idea since replicated by other organizations.
Similarly, a change by the LPGA in its maternity policy making it easier for players to maintain their status while taking time off to have a child has had a ripple effect. Because of a petition by Lewis, the USGA modified its maternity policy and granted her an exemption into this year’s U.S. Women’s Open.
And when Lewis, who played a key role in the creation of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and its Women’s Leadership Summit, was told by KPMG that the company would continue to pay her endorsement contract during maternity leave, other companies in other sports had to reconsider their contracts with female athletes. Many, including Marathon Oil, Diamond Resorts and Perio Inc. (makers of Barbasol and Pure Silk) followed the KPMG lead.
The LPGA Child Development Center has three full-time credentialed child development staff members, led by the center’s director, Bardine May. The staff travels to each LPGA event in North America and this year will be at 21 tournaments.
The 25th anniversary celebration comes as the LPGA is experiencing a baby boom with eight new arrivals over the past two years. Eleven mothers are currently competing on tour and this week there are nine mothers and 12 kids using the Child Development Center.
“It meant being able to live my dream of playing on the LPGA while living my other dream of being a mother,” Karen Stupples, a former player and now Golf Channel commentator, said about childcare. Her son, Logan, is 12.
When it comes to the Child Development Center there is the past, the present and the future. Those whose careers were made possible in the early days of the Smucker’s support include Danielle Ammaccapane, Pat Hurst, Carin Koch, Catrin Nilsmark, Denise Killeen, Juli Inkster, Catriona Matthew and Stupples.
“I couldn’t have played without it. Day care allowed me to go do my job knowing my children were in a safe, caring place. Life on tour is a unique traveling circus moving from place to place. Day care allowed us to be able to live that life.” – Former LPGA player Denise Killeen
The moms on tour now include Piller, Lewis, Icher, Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr. And then there are the mothers in waiting: Sarah Jane Smith, Jackie Stoelting and Brittany Lincicome are expecting in 2019.
“I can’t fathom what I would have done without it,” said Killeen, a former player whose son, Drew, was born in 1998 and daughter, Kaleigh, came along in 2000. With her husband, John, a caddie on the LPGA since the 1980s, also on the road, day care was essential.
“I couldn’t have played without it,” Killeen said. “Day care allowed me to go do my job knowing my children were in a safe, caring place. Life on tour is a unique traveling circus moving from place to place. Day care allowed us to be able to live that life.”
Tour life is very much like being in a circus. The entourage rolls into town on Monday, plays a practice round, the pro-am, the tournament, then rolls on to the next town. It’s a tight family and when Smucker’s came along to support childcare the family became closer.
“When they started it, Tony (Verive) ran childcare, Keith (Kendall) did the fitness trailer and I had the equipment van,” said Paul Boehmer, who still is the equipment guru for the LPGA. “So we were childcare, health care and club care,” Boehmer said. “The players called us the Care Bears.”
The impact of the childcare facility is enormous. Earlier this year, at the Hugel-Air Premia L.A. Open, Lewis had to take her daughter to the hospital before her husband, Gerrod, arrived at the tournament, causing her to get just a few hours of sleep before her round.
“The lady at day care said if that happens again you better call me and she would help me at night if I was by myself,” Lewis said.
The Child Development Center supported by Smucker’s makes it possible for women to live the life of an LPGA player. For 25 years, with some of its alumni now out of college, it’s been a safe haven for children so Mom can go about her job with peace of mind – just like Rosie the Riveter.
Catriona Matthew, shown here with daughter, Katie, in 2007, took advantage of the Smucker’s Child Development Center so she could keep playing on the LPGA. Photo: Robert Laberge, Getty Images
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