Brittany Lincicome always arrives in Palm Springs for the ANA Inspiration in an upbeat frame of mind. With good reason. She’s won the LPGA Tour’s signature event twice, in 2009 and again in 2015. And while Mission Hills Country Club’s Dinah Shore Tournament Couse sets up nicely for one of the game’s longest hitters it’s the ambiance of the place that brings a smile to her face. “It’s just so beautiful,” she says. “When you drive in the flowers are always so pretty. It’s just relaxing, the weather is always warm and nice. And everything about the event is wonderful.”
The 31-year old Lincicome is already in her 13th LPGA season. She’s played some outstanding golf in that span while recording seven victories and playing on the last five U.S. Solheim Cup teams. Her most recent win came in this past January in the season-opening LPGA Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. “I was driving it well, my putter was on fire, I was making everything, which is pretty fun to do,” she recalls, “and it was just a great way to kick off the year. Solheim Cup is this year and that was definitely my goal, just trying to move up the rankings on that to make the team.”
The win was Lincicome’s first as a married woman; she and her husband Dewald Gouws, a professional long-drive competitor, were married in December of 2015. “I just really lucked out in finding somebody that is in the same career that I am in,” she says. “He really understands what I’m doing and what I need to do to be better and he understands the travel that comes with it.”
Lincicome’s approach to her career and tournament golf is somewhat unique. She doesn’t spend long hours on the range pounding balls or put herself through lengthy sessions on the putting green. When she’s at work, she’s on the golf course. It’s the way she’s always done it from the time she first took up the game at age 9 in her hometown of Sebring, Florida at her father’s encouragement.
“Ever since I first started playing, even as a kid, I didn’t take it too seriously,” she says. “Just kind of hit it, find it, hit it again is my motto.”
Lincicome’s potential was apparent early on. In 2004, as an 18-year old she won the Harder Hall Women’s Invitational, one of the country’s most prestigious amateur events. Later that year, while still an amateur, she competed in the U.S. Women’s Open and in one other LPGA event. She earned her tour card at Q-School that fall.
Her first win came at the 2006 HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship, fittingly enough with her father on her bag.
But in a sport where many competitors drive themselves unceasingly and prepare themselves for competition as if they’re getting ready to step inside an octagon, Lincicome stands apart.
“It’s the way that works for me,” she says. “If I tried to practice like Juli Inkster or Lydia Ko, I would get burnt out and I’d probably never want to pick up a club again, so for myself, I have found that (her routine) just has a nice balance. If I go home for a week I’ll only play probably two times that week. I’ll go fishing a couple times and kind of hang out and be lazy for a couple days.”
It would be a misstatement, however, to say that Lincicome doesn’t practice. She fine tunes her game on the course during practice and pro-am rounds.
“I love to play,” Lincicome says. “I don’t like spending time at the range. This morning I played nine holes and hit balls for probably five minutes. I hit probably 20-30 balls to get loosened up, then I want to get on the course and do my practicing out there.
I obviously do a lot of chipping and a lot of putting out there. If I feel like my bunker game isn’t good, I’ll hit a lot of bunker shots or fairway bunker shots.
“When I say I don’t practice, it’s just that I don’t go to the driving range or putting green. I’d rather go out and play and do my practicing because I can visualize it better.”
Virtually every player works on some part of their game during practice rounds. But Lincicome is in the distinct minority who does virtually all her pre-tournament preparation under those conditions.
“Doing it out on the course is a lot easier for me personally,” she says. “There are obviously other players that spend eight hours on the driving range.”
Some would contend that if Lincicome frequented the range or putting green more frequently she might have a better playing record (it should be noted that as of the start of the KIA Classic on March 23 Lincicome’s career earnings totaled more than $7.8 million). But that’s not necessarily so. Numerous athletes, in golf and other sports, have allowed their passion for athletic excellence to completely consume their physical and emotional energy. Most have fallen short of their intended goal and oftentimes even those who have succeeded in achieving their aims have done so at a substantial cost to their physical and emotional well-being and their interpersonal relationships.
Lincicome admits there have been occasions when she has wondered how she would fare if she drove herself a bit harder. But while it’s possible she might have another win or two on her resume at this point in her career, a strong case could be made that ratcheting up her emotional energy output might diminish the talents that have made her one of the finest players in the world.
What skeptics might call a lack of dedication might be more accurately described as achieving the right work-life balance. Brittany Lincicome seems to have achieved that.
“I definitely don’t want to miss out on anything in life,” she says. “Golf is not all that I do and it isn’t going to consume me. If I have a bad week then I take time off. If I’m playing well then I feel like I want to keep playing.
“So there’s definitely a good balance of trying to keep it equal. I need to practice obviously a little bit, but I also have to take time off.”