Player of Year Returns to the U.S. – Stacy Lewis
As I try to pin down what is so very cool about Stacy Lewis, I am struck by the fact that nothing stands out – and yet there she is, cool as can be, sitting atop the LPGA points system for Player of the Year. Considering that marvel, the larger question seems clear to me. Why is she even here at all? Given her difficult medical background, why is she in the game of golf, and why does she play it so very well?
Stacy Lewis encountered childhood scoliosis way back when, and it demonized her every aspiration through years when others were having a lot more fun, and getting a lot more done on the course. Wearing a back brace eighteen hours out of the day isn’t the greatest thing for your swing, your social life or anything resembling a pain-free existence. Here’s where it gets weird.
Stacy’s surgeon apparently had the entire procedure planned. Two rods were to be inserted into the young woman’s back to hold her up and together. Then, the good doctor won a raffle, and his prize was, of all things, a free golf lesson. Stacy took the golf lesson, and from then on, the procedure was changed to accommodate the surprising emergence of her talent for the game. A single rod, approaching her spine was the new idea, involving five screws. That still doesn’t sound like much fun for a young woman trying to live life, but absurdly inconvenient for a young woman trying to play golf at a high level.
Whatever they did, the treatment turned out to be a success, and Stacy Lewis certainly doesn’t look like a golfer dealing with a surplus of internal metal. In fact, all things considered, she looks rather smooth. The University of Arkansas seemed to think that she was a talent worth waiting around for, and after a red-shirt season, she came out as a four time All-American. Once on the tour, she labored at the lower end of the leader board for a while, but steady improvement brought her to the public’s attention. And now, here she is – not only Player of the Year for 2012, but the first American to do it in quite a while.
A few flirted with the title. Paula Creamer, Meg Mallon, Julie Inkster and Cristie Kerr dabbled around with the top billing here and there, all amidst productive, winning careers, but no one really nailed it down from American until now – and, it might be noted, after an awfully long wait, something to which Stacy Lewis is entirely accustomed.
She labored through the Annika Sorenstam years, marked by eight Player of the Year Awards for the Swede. Australian Karrie Webb took up two more years of the honor, but still Lewis pushed on. Just as she seemed poised to break out, however, the four-year Ochoa dynasty began – lots of good golf, some winning, but no top billing. Then along came Inbee Park and Yani Tseng. The LPGA was a tough crowd to break through, but after winning four times this year, and managing a 4th place finish in the Ochoa Invitational, we can now greet our first American POY since 1994, before the youngest members of the tour were even born.
So, what’s so cool about Stacy Lewis? Persistence beyond belief. There’s passive waiting and working waiting, and the oppressive regimen developed Lewis into an old-school star. She doesn’t have a signature color, animal or perfume, but she’s set an example for aspiring individuals with additional burdens to follow. A lot went into this title, and it’s well-deserved.