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Golfers Brittany Lincicome and Sarah Jane Smith don’t take a pregnant pause for Kia Classic

Starting on the front nine, Brittany Lincicome enjoyed her day at the Kia Classic Pro-Am palyed in S
Starting on the front nine, Brittany Lincicome enjoyed her day at the Kia Classic Pro-Am played in San Diego on Wednesday.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Highly competitive and not afraid to show emotion on the golf course, eight-time LPGA Tour winner Brittany Lincicome figured being pregnant and still playing in tournaments would bring a change of perspective.

Maybe she’d mellow, not take it all so seriously. Carrying another life inside you might seem to do that.

She laughs about that now.

When the 33-year-old started the Founders Cup last week with a 74, all that motherly kumbaya stuff vanished.

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“I’m, like, gosh dang it, if I miss this cut in Phoenix I’m going to be [mad],” Lincicome said. “It’s funny how it switched. Just that competitiveness of being a professional athlete was kind of kicking in. I’m thinking, I’m better than this. I’m going to make this cut.”

Her next three rounds: 65-70-67, and Lincicome tied for 27th.

Lincicome is back for another start this week in the Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club, and she’s one of two players in the field who are playing while pregnant. The other is 34-year-old Australian Sarah Jane Smith, who is six weeks farther along. Smith is due in July and Lincicome in September.

The tour itself is experiencing a baby boom. There are seven players who have given birth in the last year: Cristie Kerr, who had her second child; Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, Gerina Piller, Karine Icher, Brooke Pancake and Rachel Rohanna.

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At the Kia Classic Pro-Am played in San Diego on Wednesday, Sarah Jane Smith tried to use some body
At the Kia Classic Pro-Am played in San Diego on Wednesday, Sarah Jane Smith tried to use some body language to persuade the ball to go into the 12th hole.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The blue and pink count: three boys, four girls.

Lincicome revealed recently she is having a girl. It’s a boy for Smith and her husband-caddie Duane Smith.

“It’s a cool time in all of our lives,” Lincicome said. “We’ve all been married about the same amount of time, and we’re all near the same age. This just seems like the perfect time to start having babies. The next few years should be really fun around here.”

Lincicome has watched her good friend and fellow Solheim Cup player Lewis go from gritty competitor to an adoring, cooing mom.

“It’s just the funniest thing to see,” she said.

Lincicome and Smith said they already are noticing changes in their golf — something other moms told them would happen. They’ve lost distance off the tee, which isn’t as difficult for the big-hitting Lincicome. Smith, who does her yardage in meters, said she has lost 10 (about 11 yards) with irons and up to 30 (32 yards) off the tee.

Smith insisted her swing speed is the same and has figured only recently that the change is likely because of an inability to use her midsection muscles in the swing. It makes sense to her now.

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“I can’t sit up in bed. I have to roll over,” she said with a laugh.

It was exactly a year ago that Lincicome received a positive pregnancy test before the first major of the year, the ANA Championship. She and her husband, Dewald Gouws, were thrilled. But at their eight-week checkup, doctors delivered devastating news: The baby didn’t have a heartbeat.

Lincicome didn’t speak publicly of the heartache then, but has since said she wants to share her experience to support and normalize it for other women who experience a similar loss.

“I’ve talked to so many moms who have either had miscarriages and then had kids, or had a couple of kids and then had miscarriages,” Lincicome said. “Obviously, it’s nature, and something goes wrong with the baby, and sometimes nobody knows exactly what happens.”

“Nerve racking” is how Lincicome described this year’s early checkups.

“I wasn’t sleeping, just wanting to make sure we heard a heartbeat,” she said. “Each appointment is still quite difficult. I think it’s always going to be in the back of my mind until we deliver a healthy baby.”

Sarah Jane and Duane Smith, who knew each other from the time they were junior golfers in Australia at 12 years old, were like a lot of other couples. They were holding off having a child until they felt like they were settled and secure. That’s tough when the fate of the family hangs on how Sarah plays, whose career earnings for 12 years on the LPGA were less than $2 million before last season.

Friends and even acquaintances would find a way to ask when they might have a kid.

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Her golf fortunes didn’t look much better early in 2018 when she missed five consecutive cuts at one point. Then came the Women’s U.S. Open. Smith shot consecutive 67s to build a lead, and though a 74-78 weekend ultimately dropped her into a tie for fifth, she earned $182,487 — more than six times her previous best check for the year.

As she and Duane were turning in their rental car at the airport after the Open, he looked at Sarah Jane and said, “Do you want to have a baby?”

“We feel really, really lucky,” she said.

At first, they thought she would be able to play in this year’s Women’s Open in late May, but realized that was a bit ambitious. Sarah Jane hopes to make it to the tournament at Lake Merced in late April.

She checks her baby bump every day, rooting for it to show more. For Wednesday’s Kia pro-am at Aviara, she wore a white knit sweater and patted the small round bump.

“I’m looking forward to it showing more,” she said, laughing. “Right now, it looks like I might just have a beer belly.”

sports@latimes.com


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