Two-time Winner on PGA Tour J.L. Lewis Passes Away at 59
I wasn’t up on all the PGA professionals during the 1990s and early 2000s. Being occupied elsewhere during that period, I don’t know how many among the weekly field I could name. If there is someone of whom I have not heard, that is my fault, not theirs. Every player on the tour is an integral part of the engine that makes the professional game go. If I did not make note of J.L. Lewis back then, all the more reason I should, and we all should, now.
Lewis won twice on the tour, specialized in making the top ten, not an easy feat feat these days, made 7.5. million, taught at his own academy, and published a ‘pocket edition’ of “Golf Tips from the Tour.” All that, however, is not what is truly important in remembering a pro golfer lost to us. It wouldn’t matter if he had won 20 majors, or never won at all. J.L. Lewis was a member of the world’s top organization in the game he loved, the same one we love.
It hurts to hear of a golfer’s passing because of the people he leaves behind – in this case, wife Dawn, son Cole and daughter Sherry. Our emotional investment in the pro game is not a clinical , but an emotional one, and our feelings extend to those Lewis loved most. It hurts to hear that he died at the age of 59. To a very young person, such an age seems elderly. However, those of us who have exceeded that mark realize what a rich time it can be. We are surprised to know that we can still be strong, agile, healthy, and mentally sharp. For Lewis, I vicariously feel the loss of those years and and the central life experiences that accompany them.
Lewis died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, the type that takes many, and is uniformly ruthless. His diagnosis in 2012 spelled mandatory retirement from the game. Born and raised in Emporia, Kansas, he graduated from Texas State University with a major in Business Education with a minor in English. A noted champion in the region, he formed his own academy near Austin, Texas, and was an instructor there. Lewis worked as an assistant at Forest Creek Golf Club at Round Rock, Texas. As a PGA pro, he made 24 top tens, and won twice. These include the 1999 John Deere Classic, and the 2003 Lumber Classic. Among the highest moments of his career, he rolled in a fifty-foot putt on the final hole to defeat the Europeans in the 1994 PGA Cup. Most days never get better than that.
No matter what it is we know about one who performs publicly for a living, the best we can get is a superficial outer view of the golfer’s interior, a mere hint at the human . We are privy to such perception largely through the accolades heaped by others, and Lewis received quite a stellar collection of them. He undoubtedly earned high esteem and love from many.
John Lee Lewis joins a list of luminaries we have lost from the golf world,. It is a list that includes great players, a founding member of the LPGA, organizers of other tours across the world, the spouse of a former great, and a famous writer who spent his lives covering the game, among numerous others. As important members of an industry devoted to the promotion of great golf, and to millions of devotees of the game who follow it, statistics and what-ifs are no longer important. Everyone who picked up a club, arranged an event, reported it to the public, or taught young people share an equal importance in golf’s future. I did not know J.L. Lewis then, but honor his contributions to the game, and extend our gratitude to his family.