Bawling on the practice putting green, heartbroken, is not exactly how I wanted to prepare for the first tournament of the 2009 season, but sometimes life gets in the way of golf. I had just finished my Monday practice round at Turtle Bay, site of the SBS Championship, when Pat Hurst came up to me and said, "I heard about you and Mark." Pat is a matronly veteran who has always looked out for me, and as soon as I saw the concern in her eyes, I lost it. She enveloped me in a big hug, and right there I started sobbing on her shoulder. We had a long talk about heartbreak, and Pat shared some very personal stories from her life. I was grateful for her perspective, but eventually I hid my watery eyes behind a pair of sunglasses and went back to working on my putting. Then a procession of colleagues began coming up to me to say they had heard the news, starting with Suzann Pettersen. On the golf course she's an intense competitor, but Suzann was so kind and comforting, and of course more crying ensued. No sooner had she left than my close friend Morgan Pressel ran up to give me a hug, and she was followed by Stacy Prammanasudh, and on and on it went. It was like the receiving line at a wake, and I wound up standing on the green for four hours of blubbering, interrupted only by intermittent lag putting.
Mark Britton had been my boyfriend for 2½ years, and we had broken up just a few weeks before the SBS. I had been dealing with it pretty much alone at home in Orlando, and in some ways the breakup didn't feel real until I arrived at Turtle Bay and had to face all the other players and all of Mark's fellow caddies. We had been the Brad and Angelina of the LPGA, minus the movie-star looks—the source of endless entertainment and gossip—and I had always enjoyed the attention. Now instead of laughs I was eliciting pity. The fuss being made over me on the practice green was only the first glimpse of how much my life had changed.
Mark and I met in a hotel lobby in Mexico City in March 2006 and clicked right away. He was caddying for my friend Helen Alfredsson, and over the next few months he and I would chat whenever we crossed paths. The LPGA is as insular and gossipy as high school, and I began to hear whispers that Mark had a thing for me but was too shy to make the first move. That changed a few months after our first meeting when, following the final round of the Evian Masters, a bunch of players and caddies gathered at a pub in picturesque Evian-les-Bain, France. A few drinks helped loosen up Mark, as did my outfit—I have to say, I was looking pretty saucy in itty-bitty Daisy Duke shorts and a sheer white top that pretty much served no purpose. We counted that day at the pub as our first date and quickly fell into a blissfully happy romance. Exploring the world together was a blast, but we also enjoyed many quiet nights watching a movie in the hotel or simply talking about our day. Being a tour pro can be very lonely, and I was grateful to have Mark by my side. My previous five relationships had all expired around the six-month mark, and even in good times those guys rarely went on the road with me. Mark was the first boyfriend I introduced to my old-school Korean parents, and all the ensuing drama forced me to grow up and assume more control of my life and career. I thought we were going to be together forever, but everything started to fall apart in the fall of 2008, beginning with a big talk Mark and I had while in Japan for the Mizuno Classic.
One night in our hotel room Mark confided to me that he was eager to start a family. Unfortunately, our clocks were ticking differently. At the time he was 35, and I was only 24 and at least seven years from being ready for children. I have so much left to accomplish as a golfer, and in a lot of ways I view having kids as a reward for a successful career. A few golfers, like Juli Inkster and Laura Diaz, have balanced being a mom with a lot of success on the course, but plenty of others have fallen off the radar after popping out a few little ones. Bottom line, it's 50-50 you'll never be the same as a player. And then there's my long bucket list. I have so much living to do—I want to skydive, get certified for scuba, take up underwater photography and so much more. Having kids is the end of being selfish, and right now I'm quite happy being self-centered and petulant. I told Mark all this that night in Japan, and it was a pretty strained conversation.
After the tournament he flew home to Scotland as scheduled to be with his family and to caddie for a friend on the Ladies European tour. We weren't going to see each other for two months, but electronic communication was always like a second language for us. We were in touch constantly thanks to Skype, text messages and e-mail. By the new year it had become clear that our lives were going in different directions, and at the end of January we had the big breakup. I cared about Mark so much that I didn't want him to miss out on the chance to have the life he wanted. If there had been some infidelity or betrayal it would've been much easier. If he had been a mooch, that would've been much better. When you break up with someone because you love them, that's when it really hurts.
My split with Mark wasn't the only news when it came to the tour's dating scene. The juiciest breakup involved a player and a female caddie who had split after the player spent the off-season cavorting in Europe with other women. The caddie was so devastated that she was taking a year off to sort things out emotionally. Needless to say, romance on tour can be quite complicated, and I think that's why the other players were so supportive of my relationship with Mark. They know it's not easy to get laid on the LPGA tour. We're like a traveling circus that barnstorms in and out of a new town every week, and this vagabond lifestyle makes it hard to meet quality people or get serious with those you do come across. If one of the guys on the PGA Tour is feeling lonely there is always a nice selection of so-called rope-hopers, those pretty young things who show up at tournaments in short skirts and do-me heels and preen by the gallery ropes, hoping to attract a wandering eye. Even if you are so inclined, it's slim pickings in our galleries: horny teens clutching Natalie Gulbis calendars, dads with their daughters or retirees in sandals with black socks. Given that a lot of girls are not getting much action, I'm sure the average golf fan would be shocked to know how much we talk about sex during tournament rounds. Once I was paired with a good friend who regaled me with stories from this raunchy book she was reading, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, in which a real-life cad recounts his various sexual misadventures. All of the fans who saw us in rapt conversation probably assumed we were discussing the finer points of Mickey Wright's swing or Alister MacKenzie's bunkering, but really it was naughty sex talk the whole time.
I was fortunate to meet a nice guy like Mark, but more than a few caddies get lucky simply because they're there. (Suggested title for a future LPGA movie: Caddyshag.) At least half a dozen players on tour have married caddies, but it can be a complicated arrangement, especially if you spend all day together on the golf course. Not long ago I was staying in a hotel room across the hall from a player who employs her husband as a caddie. Walking to my room, I could hear shouting coming from theirs. Naturally, I did what anybody would do: I pretended to be fishing around for my key so I could stand in the hall and eavesdrop. Apparently they had just finished a disastrous round, and the player was saying, "All I wanted was for you to be there for me. All I wanted was for you to pat me on the back and say you're proud of me."
The poor guy was sobbing, saying, "I gave up my whole life for you."
"What life? You didn't have a life."
Mark caddied for me a few times in our first months of dating, and it was definitely a different vibe. He was trying to keep it professional, but I kept saying things like, "Hey, I think I'm going to hit my ball into the woods so we can go look for it, wink wink."