Dawn Coe-Jones felt enormous pride last year when a certain group of her LPGA colleagues combined to win seven tournaments. After all, motherhood and championship trophies do not always co-exist peacefully on the LPGA Tour.
Being a mother, of course, is a job in itself. Adding a second career makes it all the more difficult. Make it a golf career, with the logistical hassles of travel and practice time, and it is easy to see why great golf is not a given.
Coe-Jones, 37, who lives in Tampa, gave birth to her son, James, in 1995, several months after her last tour victory. She soon learned how difficult it would be to add another to the list.
"It was more confusing than anything," said Coe-Jones, who shot her best score of the year Thursday to tie for the first-round lead at the Titleholders Championship. "It was, "Do I want to be out here? Do I want to be a professional (golfer)? Can I still compete?' It's just been a learning process."
Coe-Jones seems to be getting the hang of it after two sub-par years, by her standards. She is coming off three straight good finishes and has put herself in position to contend again with 7-under-par 65 that tied her with Pat Hurst, who won the Dinah Shore, the LPGA's first major, in March.
Their scores led a slew of red numbers in benign conditions at LPGA International, the home course of the LPGA Tour and the $1-million tournament.
Former University of Florida golfer Lisa Hackney was at 66 and tied with Sweden's Eva Dahllof. Five players shot 67, including 1997 LPGA Player of the Year Annika Sorenstam. There were 67 players who broke par 72 on the 6,393-yard course.
"The golf course is in perfect condition," Coe-Jones said. "Yes, the rough is longer. But what's our new motto? "Hey, we can play.' If you hit the ball in the fairway, you can take dead aim at the pins. The greens are putting really true and if you get confidence on the greens, you can make a lot of putts."
For Hurst, 28, this position is nothing new. The 65 was her seventh round this year in the 60s. Five have come in the first round. She has held or shared the lead in four of her 11 tournaments.
"The confidence started with my win last year," Hurst said, referring to the Oldsmobile Classic). "I made a putt on No. 18 to win and that is what you dream about. And then to win the Dinah I don't think it has fully sunk in."
Hurst started on the back nine and made five birdies, then birdied three of her last five holes on the front.
Coe-Jones had five birdies and an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole, where she hit a 7-wood second shot to 4 feet and holed the putt. Coe-Jones said a new set of irons has helped her game, but probably not as much as her ability to cope with motherhood.
"The first year or two, after a round I'd take my glove off and go right to the day-care center," said Coe-Jones, who takes advantage of the LPGA's day care because her husband, Jimmy Jones, rarely travels to tournaments.
"Now I've learned to take my time. Part of it is you miss the dickens out of them (children). But he loves it. He has a lot of friends there. So that takes a lot off my mind but a lot of people out here have help with their kids. When you're on your own, it's not easy."
But then there was inspiration from Terry-Jo Myers, Colleen Walker, Nancy Lopez, Juli Inkster and Cindy Figg-Currier, all moms who won last year. This year, Dale Eggeling added a victory.
"I think it's wonderful," Coe-Jones said. "I didn't win, but every week when someone did it was like, "Way to go.' We've shown a lot of people we can do both. It motivated me. If they can do it, maybe I can, too."