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Last updated: Mon. Jul. 14, 2014 - 05:40 am EDT

Retired series: Blumenherst is making relationship work

The left LPGA Tour to be with Major League husband

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Third in a series

Few professional athletes get the choice when to retire, and every other one is usually angry about it. Injuries happen, age limits their physical abilities or employers decide they no longer are necessary or don't want to pay the current rate.

Even fewer leave their professions healthy, partly because they retire one year too late versus one year too early.

But what happens to someone who has had to retire and lost their dream before reaching middle age? What's next after the only thing you ever wanted to do is no longer possible? How do you plan the next 30 years of your working life or replace that competitive appetite which has driven you for so long?

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Few professional athletes get the choice when to retire, and all the others are usually angry about it. Injuries happen, age limits their physical abilities or employers decide they no longer are necessary or don't want to pay the current rate.

Even fewer leave their professions healthy, partly because they retire one year too late versus one year too early.

But what happens to someone who has had to retire and lost their dream before reaching middle age? What's next after the only thing you ever wanted to do is no longer possible? How do you plan the next 30 years of your working life or replace that competitive appetite which has driven you for so long?

A few weeks ago, ESPN commentators wouldn't shut up about the break-up of tennis player Caroline Wozniacki and pro golfer Rory McIlroy. Breathlessly, they asked ``Would it help his game?'' or ``Could romantically involved athletes succeed?''

One person who might know from experience is Fort Wayne's Amanda Blumenherst. The pro golfer left the LPGA Tour in 2013 about six months after marrying Oakland A's first baseman Nate Freiman.

``I think it's up to the individual couple,'' said Blumenherst who now lives in Scottsdale. ``It depends on what you want out of the relationship though. We could have kept going where we saw each other once every four weeks and then spent the entire off season together.''

Freiman and Blumenherst met at Duke and continued their relationship through college, amateur and then professional levels before getting married in December 2012. They were Duke's senior Male and Female Athletes of the Year in 2009.

Blumenherst said she also knows successful couples where both members are PGA or LPGA tour players. It's not easy spending so much time apart, but it can work, as it has in the past for pro tennis players. She said it may be easier for professional golfers who can take a week off the tours, while pro athletes in team sports do not have that option.

``There is no such thing as a standard or normal,'' she said. ``I'm sure there are couples who function way better by spending four weeks apart and then a week together. Personally, that was not working for us in that I just missed him too much. It was tough being apart for such a long period of time.''

It's also easier to maintain long-distance relationships today in the era of the internet, Skyping and cell phones.

At the time of her leave of absence, Blumenherst was 26 and didn't want to call it a retirement. She still plays, often in pro-ams and at charity events, but she hasn't had much time to practice. She's scheduled to participate in a Toledo event later this month and last played in a tournament in September.

There was also the thought that she'd like to start a family sometime.

``I'd like to have a big family, and I made it clear when we started dating that I would want to stay home when the kids are little,'' she said. ``There are some superstar moms out on tour who can play great and do it all. A big difference is that their husbands are either caddies or managers and can travel with them. I watch those kids load up on an airplane and think `Wow, these women are amazing.' Who knows.''

Blumenherst will soon enough as she announced a few weeks ago she's expecting the couple's first child.

She recently traveled to Europe to visit three military bases as of a United Service Organizations tour but will spend most of the season watching her husband play in Sacramento or Oakland.

``It's tough being away from each other for huge chunks of time. but it can be done,'' she said. `` He's my best friend and we love spending time together.''

bsebring@news-sentinel.com


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