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From military kid to major champion: Creamer's salute to U.S. soldiers

By Karla Villegas Gama, for CNN
updated 4:11 PM EDT, Wed April 25, 2012
She is one of the best female golfers in the world and has one major title to her name, now Paula Creamer is keen to help the families of U.S. soldiers, being a military kid herself. She is one of the best female golfers in the world and has one major title to her name, now Paula Creamer is keen to help the families of U.S. soldiers, being a military kid herself.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ladies golf star Paula Creamer is to help families of soldiers through her foundation
  • The 25-year-old won the 2010 U.S. Open and has made nearly $9m in her career so far
  • Creamer's father Paul served in the U.S. Navy for 22 years and will help her new project
  • She wants to provide help and support to the wives and widows of U.S Army personnel

Lea este artículo en español/Read this article in Spanish

(CNN) -- Discipline is a key ingredient in the package required to succeed in the world of professional golf. Paula Creamer has not been found wanting in that department on her journey from military kid to major champion.

The 2010 U.S. Open winner and darling of the LPGA Tour is the daughter of a Navy officer. The 25-year-old has racked up earnings of $9 million in her career so far and has decided the time has come to contribute to the military cause.

Through her charitable foundation Creamer already helps to fund promising young golfers in the U.S. and Mexico -- now she wants to dedicate a large chunk of her time assisting people whose lives pivot around service to their country.

With America still engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan and some of its military personnel still in Iraq, Creamer is offering support to wives and families of soldiers, veterans and reserves as well as those in active service.

Giving it back: Golf's 'Pink Panther' invests in future stars

"I wouldn't be where I'm at today if it wasn't for the soldiers and everybody that fights for us," she told CNN.

"I wanted something that I could truly relate to and I could really feel that all my hard work, my time and everything I do is going to go to, and that's the military."

Family service

Creamer's father Paul flew for the Navy for 22 years before retiring in 1997. Her uncle and her cousin are Marines -- the latter went to Iraq for eight months, and he is currently stationed at the Pentagon.

I wouldn't be where I'm at today if it wasn't for the soldiers and everybody that fights for us
Paula Creamer

Growing up in a military family, Creamer was expected to display the same kind of discipline that was such a vital component of her father's job.

"I didn't understand why I had to do all my homework before I could go out and have fun," she explains. "I said, 'Dad you can't have these rules, I'm not in the military.' "

But now, Creamer says: "I'm grateful for it, I don't know any different; there are no excuses when you are in the military, you live and fight till the death -- that's kind of how he has looked at everything."

She is hoping to supplement a system in which the Department of Veterans Affairs offers pensions and compensations to the soldiers' widows, taking into consideration the spouse's military experience and the income of the widow.

Helping those left behind

Creamer knows firsthand the strain that can be put on the families of those that serve -- a common scenario being that wives run the family home while their husbands are locked in combat on the front line.

"My cousin has four sons, and his wife had to take care of four kids from the ages of one to six while he was gone. I've seen what these wives had to go through because their husbands are taking care of us. I think that's remarkable.

"The soldiers should get all the credit, but the wives are definitively up there with them, they're the ones that make them want to come home and stay strong and fight."

Of the many memories Creamer retains from her childhood, one of the fondest is when her father dressed up in his military whites for a wedding.

Paula's mother Karen recalls: "Her cousin got married, he had a military wedding at Annapolis and everybody wore whites. Paula saw them going through the swords and she was young, wiggly, but she enjoyed that."

During his time in the Navy, Creamer's father was primed for action twice -- in Vietnam and during the first Iraq War -- but never deployed.

Cousin's call-up

Creamer was 10 when her father retired, but he continued his role as a commercial pilot for American Airlines. Still, the family's army links went on.

It is hard to say no to people who fight for all of us and our country, I have a big soft spot for them
Paula Creamer

When Creamer graduated from high school and became a fulltime LPGA member in 2005, her cousin was on a tour of duty in Iraq.

"I wore an up-pin on my lapel that was his company and battalion insignia," she explains.

"I wore it every round of golf I played starting the day they deployed to show support of Teague and all the brave men and women under his command during their entire deployment to Iraq.

"I did not take it off until the final member of his command returned to U.S. soil."

Now that she has decided to lend her support to army families, Creamer has picked the perfect person to help her vision become a reality -- her dad.

"To me he's the best person for it, as he has a lot of ties within the military and he's going to want to make it as big as we possibly can. I think he is a perfect person to take ownership in that sense."

Finding funding

Born in Mountain View, California, Creamer now lives in Orlando, Florida. She is hoping to spread her project across the country.

"It is hard to say no to people who fight for all of us and our country, I have a big soft spot for them; it was the way I grew up, to respect that," she says.

"Appreciating others' sacrifices, even simple chivalry -- how a man treats a woman, and also how you conduct yourself in front of people -- those are all rules that I've always lived by and I feel it is important that I give back."

Her ultimate goal is to hold a tournament to raise money for the cause, and have both male and female stars along for the ride.

"I want to have a professional event, that would be my dream, we've talked a lot about it," she says.

"Logistics-wise I'd love to have it with the men, that would be a lot of fun to do and it'd bring a lot of interest. These days a lot of the guys have foundations that not necessarily are for the military but they are tying back to military things."

It can be daunting for someone so young to set such an organization, so Creamer has enlisted the help of friend and tennis pro James Blake, who runs the Thomas Blake Senior Memorial Cancer Research Fund, founded in memory of his father.

She has also been to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which treats injured service personnel -- a visit she describes as inspirational.

"It was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences I've had in my life. Getting to know people that just had their leg amputated, there are no words to describe how I felt. It puts everything into perspective."

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