LPGA Player Returns to Golf After a Year Off
When LPGA pro Brooke Pancake hits the links during this year’s tournament at Kingsmill this month, there will be one extra fan in the crowd: Her baby daughter, Lucy.
Pancake returns to the LPGA tour after a year off due to pregnancy and adjusting to life as a new mom. In returning, she says she has a newfound respect for golfing mothers who paved the way before her, along with just a new outlook on life.
“I have my priorities in a different place,” says 28-year-old Pancake, a former NCAA champion for the University of Alabama. “Good round, bad round — I get to come home to my sweet baby girl and give her all the snuggles and the love.”
The newly renamed Pure Silk Championship takes place May 20-26, with the first round on Kingsmill’s River Course scheduled for May 23. The new name reflects the three-year deal Kingsmill signed with razor company Pure Silk last summer after several years searching for a title sponsor.
This year marks the 15th year as an LPGA tour stop, but the 37th year that Kingsmill has hosted a professional golf tournament. The Michelob Championship at Kingsmill — a PGA Tour tournament — was held at the course from 1981-2002.
Although this is the first time Kingsmill won’t be the sponsor, the tournament is far from forgetting its Williamsburg roots. A key partner this year is the Williamsburg Tourism Council — motto: “Visit Williamsburg.” The council intends to step up its game in encouraging tournament attendees to visit the Historic Triangle area, says Council Chair Jeff Wassmer.
“What a great opportunity … for us to say, ‘Come visit Williamsburg,’ ” Wassmer says. “You know we have great golf. We have great history. We have great attractions. Our message to the world … is to come visit this destination and come back often.”
The tournament at Kingsmill is a favorite among the LPGA golfers, who speak of the family friendly, community feel. Defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn, the third-ranked player in the world, says Kingsmill has “a special place in my heart.”
Pancake says Williamsburg is a place where she feels as though she can really embrace the community and feel comfortable in return. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native says she could even see herself living here.
“I’ve traveled and seen the world, but if I was to move somewhere to just live, it would be here,” Pancake said during a recent media event at Kingsmill. “The community, the feel, the family friendliness here — I could easily live here and be ecstatic.”
Pancake, one of about 20 players sponsored by Pure Silk, was named the top college golfer in 2012 while at Alabama. She turned pro the following year. A back injury forced her to take 2016 off, and she returned in 2017 for most of the year, until she got pregnant.
After having Lucy in May 2018, Pancake started working to get back in shape, preparing to return for 2019. There was never any question that she would bring her daughter with her on tour, since her husband, former pro golfer Derek Rende, isn’t always able to travel with them. Fortunately, having a baby along is a feat made easier with the help of babysitters who travel with the tour, which includes a number of other moms, new and seasoned.
“It’s really nice to have that support system, to have other moms to confide in,” she says.
Pancake marked her return to the LPGA tour last month by bringing her daughter with her to Hawaii. Her return to Kingsmill will occur right after she celebrates her first Mother’s Day, which will be followed by Lucy turning 1 on May 31st. “We may have to bring a smash cake out,” she jokes, referring to the practice of letting babies have their own cakes on their 1st birthday.
Pancake says she’s looking forward to experiencing her career in a new light — with Lucy. Having her daughter around will force her — in the best of ways — to take a step back, especially during those times when it gets challenging to get your mind off golf and be able to just relax.
“Whether I’m having a good stretch or a bad stretch, I can leave and go have dinner or go to Busch Gardens with her, or go to Colonial Williamsburg, and to make those memories,” Pancake says. “Then … hopefully by Sunday I can be holding a trophy.”