Gerina Piller, taking maternity leave, vows to play again

NAPLES, FLA. — The 9-year-old girl waited expectantly for Gerina Piller to emerge from the scoring area after her second round at the LPGA’s Tour Championship on Friday. The young fan, Gianna Clemente, has replayed dozens of times the recording of Piller’s 8-foot putt that clinched the United States’ victory at the 2015 Solheim Cup.

Although Piller’s 3-over 75 at the Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club featured no such highlights, she smiled when she saw Clemente, who wore a sponsor’s visor that was identical to hers. Piller posed for a photograph and conversed briefly with Clemente, who then pirouetted away in pleasure.

With little fanfare, Piller walked away from golf after the tournament. The LPGA will open the 2018 season in late January without Piller, who is pregnant with her first child. She said the Tour Championship would be her last event for the foreseeable future.

If she makes any tournament appearances between now and her due date next spring, it will be at a men’s event to cheer for her husband, Martin, who plays on the PGA Tour.

Piller had no timetable for her return but said she was not done with competitive golf. “I’m not just giving everything up,” she said.

At 32, Piller is an outlier in the LPGA. In under-30 representation, the tour’s tee titans could give Silicon Valley’s under-30 tech titans a supremely competitive match. The 74 players who advanced to the season-ending event here averaged 27.3 years and included more teenagers (three) than mothers (two).

Unlike Piller, who competed in several sports when she was young and did not take up golf until she was 15, the young girls she is inspiring are training like pros from an early age. They are embodied by Clemente, who started playing when she was 2, was winning tournaments at 7 and completed a 3-hour range session in the morning before spending the afternoon watching her idols play.

The winner of the Tour Championship, Ariya Jutanugarn, is 21. With a birdie-birdie finish on Sunday, she defeated by a single stroke Jessica Korda, 24, and Lexi Thompson, 22, who won the season-long Race to the CME Globe and its $1 million bonus.