Stacy Lewis knows a thing or two about beating the odds and achieving the improbable. Nearly a decade ago, the 28-year-old who played her college golf at University of Arkansas had spine surgery to correct a severe curvature from scoliosis. And now, after battling from a four-shot deficit to start the final round, Lewis captured not only the trophy at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, but also ascended to the top of the world rankings.
Talk about inspiring. Anyone else have goosebumps? (You will if you read Alan Shipnuck’s timely SI profile of Lewis, which hit the ‘stands earlier this week — it’s not just recommended reading, it’s required!)
“Yeah, it’s almost 10 years ago I was having surgery, I was going into surgery to put a rod and five screws in my back,” said Lewis in her post-victory press conference after closing with an impressive eight-under 64 to best the usually-unflappable Ai Miyazato by three shots. “That was just 10 years ago. That’s not normal, that’s not supposed to happen. I mean, I’m not ‑‑ I’m really not supposed to be here.”
“People with metal in their back, how do you play golf,” she added. “I don’t know, I don’t know how, I don’t know why I’m here. I know that there’s a reason and I know that everything happens for a reason. Every setback you have along the way, everything good that happens, it all happens for a reason. I don’t know, I couldn’t have dreamed the kid growing up wearing a back brace 18 hours a day that is the No. 1 player in the world.”
Lewis, who just won two weeks ago in Singapore, dethroned Yani Tseng’s 109-week tenure as the world No. 1 and notched her 7th LPGA title. After a four-win season in 2012, Lewis became the first American to earn Player of the Year honors since Beth Daniel in 1994.
“It’s crazy,” said Lewis, referring to her climb to the top of the rankings. “That was my goal kind of since the middle of last year and I really didn’t think it would be possible this quick. We’ve only played four tournaments this year and it’s just crazy.”
Like I said, Stacy has experience as an underdog and fought hard to achieve what seemed like the impossible.
Interesting enough, Lewis capitalized from a misstep by Miyazato on the short par-4 16th, where a day earlier she incurred a two-shot penalty when her caddie Travis Wilson violated Rule 13-4 by “testing the sand.” Instead of harping on the potentially costly error, Lewis used it as more incentive to overcome just another hurdle on her way to the winner’s circle (and making it an even better story). Wilson undoubtedly breached the rule, but obviously he felt awful about it. Lewis told him after the third round to look on the bright side — at least the penalty was assessed before she signed her scorecard.
”I wasn’t even mad at him because he didn’t do anything on purpose,” Lewis said. ”I just felt really bad for him just because all the stories were ‘Stacy Lewis’ caddie, Stacy Lewis’ caddie.’ The spotlight was on him and he never wants that. We were so motivated today.”
On Sunday Miyazato had a one-shot lead heading into the 16th, but she made an uncharacteristic mistake from the middle of the fairway — probably her only one of the week — and posted a double-bogey.
”I was shocked that she hit the shot she did,” Lewis said. ”That is not like Ai at all. She’s green, green. I mean, it’s boring to play with her because she hits so many greens.”
Lewis made around a 15-footer for birdie for a three-shot swing to take the outright lead. And to put the dagger in, she rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on no. 17 to basically seal the deal.
Added Lewis: “I was certainly surprised she finished the way she did, but to make those two putts I did on 16 and 17 was pretty unbelievable and I’m just ‑‑ I’m really speechless. I played great today and I was super motivated from all that happened yesterday and just happy for Travis (Wilson).”
Congrats to Stacy and Travis and the others on Team Lewis.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)