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A Debut To Remember

Playing the best golf of her life in her first event as a pro, Stacy Lewis grabbed the lead when Paula Creamer missed birdie opportunities on 17 and 18

June 28, 2008

EDINA, Minn. (AP) -- Stacy Lewis is making her professional debut one to remember.

Nineteen days after she turned pro, Lewis showed the poise of a veteran Saturday at Interlachen with no bogeys and a 6-under 67 that gave her a one-shot lead over Paula Creamer going into the final round of the U.S. Women's Open.

Lewis, a former NCAA champion at Arkansas, might have been the only one not surprised to see her name atop the leaderboard.

"I've accomplished my goal for the week," Lewis said. "It was just to put myself in contention. And whatever happens tomorrow, it happens. I hope I win. I want to win ... probably more than anybody here. But I have to hit a lot of good golf shots before I win this golf tournament."

And she will have to hold off a half-dozen players within four shots of the lead, starting with Creamer.

Creamer is two years younger but already in her fourth season on the LPGA Tour with six victories, enough for some to already anoint the 21-year-old product of a golf academy as the best player without a major.

She had a chance to share the 54-hole lead with Lewis until missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 69.

Lewis was at 9-under 210, setting up an All-American final group at the U.S. Women's Open for the first time in five years.

Helen Alfredsson of Sweden, 15 years removed from her Women's Open heartache, stayed close to the lead throughout an afternoon of scattered clouds at Interlachen and came in at 71 to finish two shots out of the lead at 7-under 212, along with Inbee Park (71).

In-Kyung Kim had a 69 and was another shot behind, while eight-time LPGA Tour winner Mi Hyun Kim had a 70 and was at 214.

Lewis already has had a month to remember.

It began on the Old Course at St. Andrews on June 1, where she became the first player in Curtis Cup history to go 5-0 in leading the Americans to another victory. She turned pro on June 9, and won her Women's Open qualifier that day by four shots.

"I only play in golf tournaments to win," she said with quiet conviction, not bravado. "I'm not here to make the cut or finish top 10 or do any of that. I'm here to win. People might see that as arrogant, but I think if you're not here to win, you're never going to be successful."

In many respects, she's already a huge success.

Lewis was 11 when doctors diagnosed her with scoliosis. She was supposed to wear a brace for two years, but that turned into seven years when she kept growing. Right after graduating high school, she had surgery on her back to install a rod and five screws.

"I thought I was done playing golf forever," said Lewis, who signed with Arkansas before she realized she faced surgery. "I just wanted to play golf. I just wanted to qualify for my team. I didn't think I'd win my tournaments. I didn't think about any of that. I just wanted to get back out there and play again."

Nearly a year after surgery, she tried qualifying for a tournament at Arkansas and won by 20 shots.

On the bag this week is her father, Dale, who paced for six hours in the waiting room the day of the surgery, then was amazed as his daughter won 12 times in college, the highlight an NCAA title a year ago.

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