Posted by: Mike Cornelius | September 3, 2017

Stacy Lewis Wins, For Her City And Herself

In the wake of the terrible devastation Hurricane Harvey inflicted on Houston and surrounding coastal areas of Texas, athletes and sports teams have done their part in the national response to the tragedy. J.J. Watt, the Texans’ star defensive end, announced on online fundraising drive with an initial goal of $200,000, half of which Watt donated himself. In less than 24 hours more than half a million dollars had been donated, so Watt kept raising his sights. As this is written the fund’s goal is now $20 million, with more than $18 million already in the bank. Watts’ team donated $1 million to a relief fund sponsored by the local United Way, and that was quickly matched by the NFL. Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander gave $4 million as well.

Support was not limited to Houston or even Texas teams and players. In but one example, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox put aside their bitter rivalry to jointly raise money for the relief effort by auctioning off team and game-used memorabilia from their weekend series at the Stadium.

Then there was Stacy Lewis. Although born in Ohio, the future LPGA star grew up in a Houston suburb, and still calls the area home. Last summer she married Gerrod Chadwell, the coach of the women’s golf team at the University of Houston. This week, as the 32-year old prepared to tee it up in the Cambria Portland Classic, Lewis tweeted the following: “It has been so hard being away from home and my family the last week. It’s been even harder watching what my hometown is going through. The pictures and the stories unimaginable. My home and family have been extremely lucky but many others have not been so lucky. I will be playing this week at the Portland Classic and will donate 100% of my earnings to Houston and the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I can’t wait to get home to Houston and help my hometown recover!”

It was a generous gesture; one that could be expected to produce between $35,000 and $40,000 for the relief effort, based on the average check Lewis cashed in nineteen previous tournaments this year. LPGA purses are but a fraction of those on the men’s tour, and while she remains one of the Tour’s leading members and the third highest American in the Rolex World Rankings, Lewis in recent years has not been the golfer who dominated the women’s game just a few years ago. She won her first major in 2011, then won four times in 2012. Lewis notched three more victories the following year, including her second major with a dramatic final round rally at the Women’s British Open. She also ascended to the top of the world rankings in 2013, and is still just the second American woman to do so. Another three wins followed in 2014, the last a one-shot victory over a trio of competitors at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

And then the winning stopped. There was no dramatic change in Lewis’s game. She ended 2015 ranked third in the world, exactly where she had been at the close of the previous season. She had six runner-up finishes that year and fourteen top-tens, but her earnings dropped from more than $2.5 million to just under $1.9. Last year she earned less than half that amount, and for the first time since 2012 her scoring average crept above 70. Lewis arrived at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club for this week’s tournament with six top-ten finishes in 2017, including a second place showing that brought to an even dozen the number of times she had been runner-up since her last victory.

Despite the victory drought and the fact that her world ranking had dropped to eighteenth, Lewis professed to being happy with the new balance in her life that came with finding a partner. Still to close followers of the LPGA, it seemed unlikely that her competitive fires, which had so recently burned white-hot, were completely banked.

Lewis opened with a 2-under par round of 70, which left her in a tie for 33rd place, four shots adrift of first round leader In Gee Chun. It was a round like many of Lewis’s in the past two years – six birdies attested to her ability to convert scoring chances, but two bogeys and a double spoke to a few too many loose shots. But mindful of the commitment she had made to her waterlogged city, on Friday Lewis showed a renewed level of determination. Her second round scorecard had seven threes and a pair of twos, as she recorded eight birdies without dropping a shot. The 64 sent Lewis soaring to the top of the leader board, tied with Chun and Brooke Henderson. On Saturday she played nearly as well, again making eight birdies against a long bogey for a 65 that left Lewis three shots clear of her closest competitor with one final turn around Columbia Edgewater’s eighteen remaining.

Closing out a victory, especially one to end a long drought, is never easy. On Sunday Chun put Lewis to the test. Starting in third place, four shots back of the leader and playing with her in the final threesome, Chun matched Lewis’s 33 on the front. Then as Lewis made par after par, Chun birdied the two par-5s on the back nine, the 10th and 12th holes. When she rolled in a twenty-footer for birdie on the par-3 16th Chun had whittled the lead down to a single shot.

But Lewis held her nerve. She saved par from off the green at the 17th, and then found the putting surface with an approach from a fairway bunker at the last after Chun’s approach rolled through the green. The challenger did manage to get up and down, but Lewis’s first putt from forty feet settled a yard from the hole, and her final stroke with the flat stick was steady and true. When her ball found the bottom of the cup Houston relief efforts were enriched by $195,000, an amount immediately matched by KPMG, Lewis’s primary sponsor.

No one would have blamed Lewis had she withdrawn from the tournament and flown home to her stricken city. But after three years without a win, the former world number one had a different idea. For her city and for the competitive fire that still burns inside her, Stacy’s idea was an immensely better one.

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Responses

  1. If this was a movie script, not many folks would find it believable. Life does imitate Art every now and then.

    Good post, Mike.
    Ω

    • Thanks Allan. It definitely had its fairytale aspects. Lewis has parlayed her pledge, with help from her sponsors, to more than $1.5 million for the relief effort.

      M-

      Michael Cornelius
      603.498.527
      http://www.onsportsandlife.com


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