It's a good time to be Brittany Lincicome.
Consider she is 23 years old, single with a steady boyfriend, lives with her parents in a modest Bardmoor home, owns her own boat and plays golf for a living. And by living, we mean over $2 million earned in her brief five-year career.
Things got even sweeter this year when she captured the LPGA's first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, on April 5. And she did it in dramatic fashion with a had-to-see-it-to-believe-it 210-yard hybrid shot on the 18th hole that nestled 4 feet from the pin for eagle.
Lincicome will try to make it two straight majors Thursday when she tees off at the LPGA Championship in Maryland.
Yep. Pretty cool to be Lincicome right about now.
"I'm still the same person,'' Lincicome said. "I have the same group of friends. I haven't spent any of my money. I still live at home. I haven't changed a bit.''
That isn't to say Lincicome hasn't gone through some changes. In fact, this time last year she realized she'd better make some or her career might go down the drain.
Out with the old
There were many times during the 2008 season when Lincicome would stand over her ball and have no idea what to expect.
"I couldn't keep the ball in play,'' she said. "I'd have no idea where it was going.''
For a player like Lincicome, nicknamed "Bam Bam'' by fellow competitors, not being able to get off the tee made for a long season. She only made half the cuts in 22 tournaments played. She had only one top 10 finish and made a career low $114,963.
It got so bad in mid summer that her father, Tom, suggested she take a break from golf.
"She was on the brink of not wanting to play anymore,'' Tom Lincicome said. "It got that bad for her. She had never been through anything like this. Golf just wasn't any fun for her.''
Lincicome needed a physical and mental change.
She switched from long time swing coach Matt Mitchell to Craig Shankland of Daytona Beach. Shankland, who has played on the Champions Tour, works winters at LPGA headquarters. He toned down Lincicome's powerful swing, and she said it is more comfortable.
"We wanted to build a swing that was going to hold up on Sundays under pressure,'' Lincicome said. "I kind of have this lag, drop in my backswing, but not as bad as I used to. The way it was, that just wasn't going to be good under pressure.''
Then came work on the mental part of golf. Lincicome, like most golfers at her level, is a perfectionist.
"She's very hard on herself,'' Tom Lincicome said. "She could hit a 280-yard drive down the middle and say, 'I hit it a groove down.' "
Through friends on the Tour, Lincicome hooked up with Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, founders of Vision 54 in Phoenix. They provide sports psychology sessions to several LPGA golfers.
"I'd heard everyone talking about it and I heard nothing but great things,'' Lincicome said. "I know Annika (Sorenstam) and Suzanne (Petterson) have gone to them forever. I've been looking for something like this.''
Lincicome could be a spokeswoman for Vision 54. After spending 30 minutes with them the day before the Kraft Nabisco, she shot an opening round 66 and stayed in contention all week.
"Brittany asked for a little extra help that she could use for that week,'' Nilsson said. "Since we did know her a little from before, it was not that hard in a few minutes time to help her with some tools to manage her reactions after shots and just in general to stay more happy and present.''
Armed with a new swing and hoping to forget about 2008, Lincicome started the 2009 season in Hawaii …where she missed the cut.
"That was a great confidence booster,'' she said, tongue in cheek. "But that's Hawaii. That's a really hard week. I didn't read too much into it.''
Then came a tie for 65th a month later in Mexico that included an opening round 81. At the Junior Golf Phoenix International, the tournament before the Kraft Nabisco, Lincicome made the cut and finished in a tie for 39th. It may not sound like much, but it was a confidence boost.
"I played well in Phoenix,'' Lincicome said. "I knew where the ball was going.''
Lincicome had been playing well all week at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. But heading into the 72nd hole, she was trailing McPherson and Cristie Kerr by a stroke.
A birdie would likely put her in a playoff. An eagle, which she hadn't carded all year, would likely seal a victory.
"I knew as we went to the 18th that the only one in our group that could get there in two was Brittany,'' McPherson said. "It didn't surprise me when she did it.''
Her swing held up on a Sunday afternoon. As soon as the ball left her hybrid, Lincicome knew it was good. She shouted, "Please be good! C'mon.'' The ball rolled to the back of the green, caught the slope and stopped in the shadow of the pin as the crowd roared. She calmly made the putt and became the second youngest winner of the tournament.
"It just proved to me that I can do it on Sunday,'' Lincicome said. "It gave me a bunch of confidence and if I'm ever in the same situation I feel like I can come through.''
McPherson, who moved from Orlando to Tampa in November, counts Lincicome as one of her best friends on Tour. And she didn't mind that it was Lincicome who passed her on the final hole and took the ceremonial leap into the 18th green's lake.
"We had a good time out there,'' McPherson said. "It helped calm our nerves. Then when she hit that shot, I actually thought it was in the hole. But that's how you want to get beat, an eagle on the last hole. If it wasn't me I wanted it to be her.''
Lincicome insists she has moved on.
"I don't think about it very much anymore,'' she said.
Major No. 2
Lincicome is also not thinking about winning a second straight major. She is trying to win, of course, but she looks at it as talking to a pitcher when they have a no-hitter. Don't do it.
"Somebody brought that up the other day, and I'm like, 'Oh yeah, I never thought about that,' '' she said. "Thanks for bringing it up. I'm not thinking about that.''
But Lincicome does know that she will be one of the favorites to win on the 6,641-yard Bulle Rock Course in Havre de Grace, Md. That used to give her chills, but 2009 is shaping up to be the Year of Brittany.
"The major courses kind of fit my game,'' she said. "They are long, the rough is thick, the greens are faster. If I'm keeping it in play, pretty much watch out.''