Brittany Lincicome is back on the LPGA Tour and ready to go, with baby in tow

Eight-time tour winner Brittany Lincicome, who gave birth to daughter Emery in July, hasn't played competitive golf since May. Courtesy of Brittany Lincicome

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The banter was lively among three LPGA Tour members and four celebrity golfers earlier this week during a short-game skills challenge leading into the LPGA's season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.

Larry the Cable Guy produced faux flatulence in the backswing of tour veteran Brittany Lincicome, who giggled and executed her shot anyway. Then Lincicome got the microphone and yapped right back at the comedian when it was his turn to chip -- much to the delight of the small gallery watching the event.

But even if the sleeveless TV star had not been cracking up the golfer with his fake British accent and variety of antics, Lincicome would have been smiling.

Smiling about her return to the tour after seven months away. Smiling about playing in her sponsor's event at an official LPGA tournament that she helped get on the tour's schedule.

Smiling about playing in her home state, surrounded by family and friends.

Smiling about being a new mom of a now-healthy baby girl who arrived in the world eight weeks early in July and spent some frightening time in the newborn intensive care unit.

"I have never taken that much time off, and I haven't played since last May," said Lincicome, a 16-year LPGA veteran with eight career wins, including two majors.

"Hitting shots is second nature, but the nerves and being in competition again is what is different. Luckily this week's event is super-relaxed, so it's going to be nice to kind of ease my way back into life on tour with our first two tournaments in Florida and lots of family out to watch."

The affable Floridian, known for her length off the tee, is tied for 22nd after Thursday's first round.

Lincicome is in good company at this year's second annual Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, which features a limited field of 26 LPGA tournament winners from the past two seasons.

The event pairs LPGA players with sports and entertainment celebrities in a four-round, stroke-play event at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando.

"I was lucky enough to get on the Diamond Resorts team early when it all started," said Lincicome, who wears the title sponsor's logo on her golf shirt. "The first year, I just came and watched everyone play. The next year, they added the Champions Tour, and I played in that, and now, the celebrities are paired with LPGA tournament winners."

Lincicome helped secure that LPGA union, thanks to her connection with stars in other sports. Her friendliness at the Diamond Resorts celebrity events helped seal the deal with the event's organizers.

"I think they saw the value of holding this tournament with the LPGA," she said. "The fans really liked us, and the people at Diamond Resorts saw how we interacted with the fans."

While it looks like Lincicome is jousting with comics and edging solid celebrity golfers such as baseball Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz for bragging rights, she admits that there are some serious talks behind the scenes with athletes who have excelled in their sports.

"I'm always trying to learn something and always trying to get better," said Lincicome, who is paired Thursday with NBA stars Grant Hill and Ray Allen. "I like to pick their brains a little and learn how they mentally prepare before games."

She's also asking a lot of questions of other LPGA Tour moms as she begins her first year on tour with daughter Emery, now 6 months old.

"She's just the easiest baby in the world," Lincicome said. "I feed her, she smiles. She sleeps, she smiles, and she sleeps through the night."

But while baby Emery is now a smiling junior version of her mother, the child's tenuous start at 4 pounds, 11 ounces, was a frightening reality for Lincicome and her husband, Dewald Gouws. Lincicome suffered a miscarriage in 2018, so Emery's early arrival and tenure in the NICU were another sobering reminder of the fragility of life.

"That experience taught us so many valuable things," she said. "It was super scary to see her in the NICU for almost five weeks, but every nurse was wonderful in giving us advice on how to raise her and care for her. She's healthy now."

Lincicome plans to take her daughter on the road this season, scheduling two weeks on tour, followed by a week at home. The LPGA's childcare program will help during the weeks of domestic competition.

Lincicome's husband works in sales at home in the St. Petersburg area, and her parents live 20 minutes away. She does not plan to travel with her daughter for international tournaments, and during the two events in late February for which Lincicome will travel to Thailand and Singapore, Emery will stay home with her father and paternal grandmother.

Baby Emery and her mom had a trial run together recently, when the two traveled to South Florida for Morgan Pressel's charity tournament. They stayed with Gerina Piller and her young son at the event, and Lincicome peppered her fellow touring pro with questions.

"I spent $1,000 on baby stuff that I'm going to need for us to travel on tour, like a lighter stroller and a lighter Pack 'N Play [portable bassinet]," Lincicome said. "Gerina has helped me figure out how to travel with a baby, and Juli [Inkster] has given me a lot of advice."

Those logistical considerations intrigue not only the tour moms but also their peers. Sweden's Pernilla Lindberg, who played with Lincicome in the celebrity skills challenge, shook her head when asked what she thought about her friend's travel plans for the 2020 season.

"I know how hard it is to travel out here without a kid, but this new generation of tour moms are helping each other, sharing and asking questions," said Lindberg, the winner of the 2019 ANA Inspiration.

"Many of our players are now mothers and are more than just professional golfers. I think that also makes us more relatable to fans."

While she is quick with a smile, Lincicome also is notoriously hard on herself in competition. This season, she said she hopes to play consistently and put herself into contention. Her top goal is to win the U.S. Women's Open someday.

"I'm still fiery because I want to win every week, and if I'm not playing well, I get mad at myself," she said. "That probably won't change."

But the life-changing experience of bringing a child into the world and watching her become healthy is something Lincicome says is certain to change her perspective as a mom on tour.

"There's just a bigger picture now," Lincicome said. "Now I get to go home to this beautiful, little girl, and it doesn't matter how I played."

Lisa D. Mickey has covered golf for Golf World, Golf For Women, The New York Times, the U.S. Golf Association, LPGA.com, Virginia Golfer Magazine and various other publications and websites. She is based in Florida.