TAMPA — Brittany Lincicome has played golf most of her life and been a member of the LPGA Tour since 2005.
But the game might never have meant more to her than it does right now.
When the combination of motherhood and the coronavirus pandemic led to a nearly year-long hiatus — Lincicome competed only twice between May 2019 and July 2020 — it helped put her career in a new perspective.
“All the other years and tournaments all mean a lot, but this year, obviously with what we’ve been through and everybody’s going through, you just count your blessings,” said Lincicome, 35. “When there is a week that you can play, you go play.”
She’s been in go-mode since the tour resumed in late July, competing in eight events already. This week, she’ll play in the Pelican Women’s Championship, which kicks off Thursday in Belleair and will feature 85 of the top 100 players in the world.
As other golfers contemplate taking a week off here or there depending on the tournament course and their personal schedule, Lincicome said she can’t pass up the opportunity for another tournament.
The hiatus was the longest break Lincicome has had in her career. She gave birth two months ahead of schedule, and the pandemic cut the LPGA Tour from 33 events to 18.
Though 2020 has brought its challenges, there have been blessings, as well: more time at home with her husband, Dewald Gouws, and, of course, the arrival of her daughter, Emery Reign Gouws.
“I don’t know what we would’ve done with our time if we didn’t have her,” Lincicome said, laughing. “We watch every move she makes and we joke, like, what did we do before her?”
Lincicome said Emery, 1, has adjusted well to her mother’s lifestyle. The two spent time together on the practice range Monday, and Emery has started to recognize her mother when she sees her playing on television.
“She literally starts clapping,” Lincicome said. “So I’m trying to associate, like, mommy plays golf, and so it’s really cool to see her brain working and processing everything.”
Lincicome said her daughter will stay quiet as she plays 18 holes, napping off and on along the way.
“She loves being out there and riding around in the stroller and just watching,” Lincicome said.
The tournament at the Pelican Golf Club, the first LPGA event in Pinellas County in 30 years, is a homecoming of sorts for Lincicome.
She took lessons at the course, then known as Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, when she was 12 or 13. She said the greens have changed, but the layout remains pretty much the same.
“I don’t want to say this golf course is easy, because it’s not easy by any means,” Lincicome said, “but from tee to green, it’s very generous.”
The best part, for Lincicome, is the course’s proximity to her home. It’s not every week she gets to play about 40 minutes from her home in Gulfport.
Four of the tour’s 18 events this year are in Florida, up from two of 33 in 2019 and one of 33 in 2018.
“You think of Florida, you think of golf and it goes hand-in-hand,” Lincicome said. “Why we don’t have more events in Florida, I don’t know.”
What other players are saying about the tournament:
Orlando native Sierra Brooks on playing in Florida this weekend
“Any chance I can get to play in Florida, it’s just great. I feel at home here.”
Tampa resident Brittany Altomare on having a tournament in Tampa Bay
“Yeah, it’s great. I love being here. I mean, I’ve never slept in my bed for a tournament before, so this will be weird and fun at the same time. (I’m) just happy to be in Tampa, so it’s good.”
Tampa resident Nathalie Filler on playing her first LPGA event in her backyard
“This has been a very cool experience to see what Pelican has come to be what it is now, and I’m very excited that it’s going to be showcased this week in such a special way.”
Bradenton native Jessica Korda on playing without fans
“It’s really weird not having fans. This is my 10th year on tour, and I’m very used to the fans and used to a certain interaction, not only with players, staff, volunteers, and it’s just not the same. It’s definitely been something to get used to, but we miss the fans, for sure.”
Round 1: Thursday, 4 p.m. (delayed taping)
Where: Pelican Golf Club, Belleair
TV: NBC Golf Channel