The 2019 LPGA Tour season has been unlike any other for Stacy Lewis. Her 8-month-old daughter, Chesnee, has been traveling with her all year. It’s not a lifestyle that Lewis predicted when she was a rookie in 2009, watching Laura Diaz balance playing responsibilities with raising children. But now 34, Lewis is happy to be setting the example of what a playing mother on the LPGA Tour looks like.
With Chesnee in tow, Lewis’ tournament days look a lot different than they used to. For a morning start, Lewis gets up three hours before her tee time, an hour earlier than in the past. There are a lot of variables to consider with a baby—Lewis has to leave time in case something goes awry. She packs up her golf bag and Chesnee’s bag for the Smuckers LPGA Child Development Center, the first daycare to travel with a professional tour, according to the LPGA, and in its 25th year. It’s a big part of what makes playing on the LPGA Tour as a mom possible for Lewis and others on tour.
“The ladies are awesome; it’s the same three every week,” Lewis says of the women who work in the daycare. “When I walk in there, Chesnee hears their voices, and she’s putting her arms out to go see those ladies. She loves it. We’ll get to a point where she gets mad that I’m leaving, but we’re not there yet. I just feel so comfortable leaving her there. I know that she’ll be safe, they can get a doctor, if anything goes wrong, they’ll come and get me. I’m completely at peace with taking her there.”
One of the caddies on tour drives a truck to each event, full of all of the toys and baby gear that the daycare uses. That way, it’s the same setup at each event, making daycare more consistent and comfortable for the children.
With Chesnee dropped off, Lewis has two hours to get into her normal routine before she has to tee off. Chesnee has already been fed, but Lewis hasn’t eaten yet, so she has breakfast and then starts her warm-up.
After her round, Lewis practices, meets with the media, and then goes to pick up Chesnee.
“If I had an 8 a.m. tee time, it’s 2:30 or 3 before I’m picking her up again,” Lewis says. “By then she needs a nap, so we go back to the hotel. I might take a nap myself then, too. Then it’s dinner time. I get us both dinner, get her to bed between 7:30 and 8, then I get myself to bed. And we do it all over again.”
Lewis says that those morning tee times are the best. It’s the afternoon tee times that are really different from her pre-baby tournament days. That’s because Chesnee wakes up early.
“The hardest was when we were in Phoenix,” Lewis says. “That was the first time I had a 1 p.m. tee time. She was up at 6. So once I got on the first tee, I realized I’d been up for seven hours already. By the end of the day, I was exhausted.”
Since that week, the goal has become to figure out how to feel rested for an afternoon round, even though Chesnee is going to get up early. One way to do this, Lewis found, is to have whomever is traveling with her—either her mom or her husband, University of Houston women's golf coach Gerrod Chadwell—get up with Chesnee, allowing Lewis an extra hour or hour and a half of sleep. Sometimes that’s not an option, though, as Lewis occasionally travels alone with Chesnee. On those weeks, early mornings are inevitable.
It’s the sleep that Lewis says is the biggest change—not the early wake-ups as much as the wake-ups throughout the night.
“Six hours of uninterrupted sleep is amazing now,” she says. “I could function fine on six or seven hours of straight sleep, but it’s the uninterrupted sleep that’s the key. We go to bed early.”
Navigating the tour as a mom is made easier by the fact that Lewis isn’t the only player doing it. Karine Icher travels with her two children, Cristie Kerr’s children are sometimes out on tour, and Gerina Piller has a son, AJ, five months older than Chesnee.
“The kids play together all the time,” Lewis says of Gerina and AJ. “I’m lucky that she’s gone through everything I’m going through.”
Piller and Lewis will pair together this week as Team Baby Mommas for the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, a new team event on the LPGA schedule. The two announced they'd be teammates with a video of their two children playing.
The team event will start the week after Lewis finished third in the Marathon Classic, her best finish since returning to the tour in January after giving birth to Chesnee in October. The tour's maternity policy allows mothers two years to return to place after the date of the child's birth, and they return to the tour with the same status that they left with.
“I thought my body and the game and swing would come back a lot quicker,” Lewis says. “But what you go through is surgery. I thought a couple months, I’d be back and fine. But it’s taken a lot longer. I’m starting to get back in golf shape.”
The third-place finish is Lewis’ third top 10 since coming back to the tour after having Chesnee. Lewis admits that it’s difficult to travel with her baby, and that keeping a consistent schedule for Chesnee is impossible, but it’s worth it to Lewis for her goals in golf as well as being a role model for other girls and women.
“It’s good for us to show that you can have a career and play on tour and have kids instead of thinking you have to be playing in your 20s, retire and then have kids," Lewis says. "It’s not easy, but Chesnee’s amazing. I can’t imagine life without her now.”