News & ToursApril 1, 2011

LPGA: Lewis and the trip that changed her life

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Who knew that a simple turn of a faucet could deliver more than a stream of water, that perspective could flow from it as well?

For Stacy Lewis, the discovery was the residue of a December trip to Rwanda, part of Betsy King's Golf Fore Africa charity. "Alongside the road, you see kids with these huge buckets of water, bigger than they are," Lewis said. "They had to walk probably miles to the wells to get water. That picture doesn't really go out of your head, especially when you go to turn a faucet on."

Golf World

Stacy Lewis.jpg

(Photo by Darren Carroll)

Lewis, 26, is the 36-hole leader of the Kraft Nabisco Championship here and in quest of her first LPGA victory. Should she win, her Rwanda trip that included meeting a girl she is sponsoring would not be the singular reason for her success, but it would have been a contributing factor.

"It changed me a lot," she said. "It was such a shock to me that people live the way they do, yet they're so happy and grateful. It just makes me thankful for everything that I have and it gave me a renewed purpose of what I'm doing out here. The better I play golf, the more I can help other people, the more I can inspire people. It gave me a new purpose to what I'm doing.

"I appreciate the little things more. I'm happier. People have noticed the difference in me since I've been back. When I came back I said, 'you could just see the joy in these people's faces. They were just so happy and so appreciative.' I want people to see that joy in me as well. That's my goal."

King, a three-time champion of the event that she and others simply call the Dinah, is here to participate in its 40th anniversary festivities. She is a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame, whose own career derived a benefit from her having found a cause.

"Looking back, it made it easier to play," she said, suggesting it has the potential to do the same for Lewis. "I felt that if you found a cause greater than yourself that you're playing for, it's very helpful."

If life experiences forge the person, Lewis is built to win. For much of her childhood, she was required to wear a cumbersome back brace in an effort to prevent her scoliosis from worsening. She eventually required surgery anyway, contributing to an experience that equipped her with the resolve to overcome life's challenges.

"My parents always said, 'your sisters never would have been able to do what you do,'" she said. "It's my personality and the way I can just grind and get through things. That's just what I do."

When she nearly won the U.S. Women's Open in her professional debut in 2008, she was going to conquer the world. "I thought coming off that Open it would be kind of instant success and I'd be rolling right along," she said. "But I kind of hit a rut a little bit at the end of my rookie year and I was kind of lost. I didn't really know what to do."

In fact she knew instinctively what to do. She tapped into her reservoir of resolve and re-doubled her efforts to improve. She found a new coach and took on a strength-and-conditioning coach and she persevered.

And now she's 36 holes away from her life experiences coalescing into a moment that will help her own cause, but to which King alluded as well, the cause greater than herself.

-- John Strege

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