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Rookies May Rule at the Open

by Jeff Skinner

The women take center stage this week at the US Women’s Open at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It’s time to concentrate on the golf these women can play, not the politics and controversy that has scarred the first few days of Open week. There are many players that should be able to survive the USGA’s setup and contend for the championship. If The Open is to follow the LPGA’s season then there is a good chance that the US Open champ may be very young. So far this season, rookies have won four LPGA tournaments. Jiyai Shin has won twice and Anna Nordqvist and Eunjung Yi have a win each. If you throw in sophomore, Yani Tseng’s win that makes five wins out of fourteen events on the LPGA this season. One rookie that may be hitting her stride is former four time All-American, Stacy Lewis. Lewis was the 2008 Qualifying School winner and was a Curtis Cup hero at St. Andrews. Lewis has had an up and down year but is playing her best golf lately. In her first seven tournaments she had one round in the sixty’s over her last five outings she has had six rounds in the sixty’s. Lewis’s last four tournaments are a microcosm of her season. She has had two missed cuts sandwiched around a tie for ninth and a tie for fourth at The Wegmans where she contended until late Sunday. Prior to the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic she admitted that she had struggled early in the year. “I was bringing what I did before (in the last tournament) into the next week and not really getting over what I had done. I was just putting too much pressure on myself and struggled. But it is nice to be playing better and peaking at the right time of year.” It appears that she has changed her attitude to be more concerned with the process and not the result. “I kind of realized that it’s not the end of the world and I just need to go and play golf. The last couple of weeks have been great. I’m starting to get more comfortable and getting back to enjoying what I do.”

Lewis is a special story. She has a steel rod in her back to keep her spine straight due to scoliosis as a youth. She may think she is just another talented rookie on the LPGA Tour but when you have a story like hers it makes you a little special. Before the season I asked her how often she thinks of her back operation and what unique treatment she needs. “I really don’t think about it much. I don’t really want to. But I do get a reminder of what I’ve been through everyday just looking down and seeing the scar so the memories never really go away. I just have to stretch a lot and I’ve been working over the last few years just trying to get my back stronger. I will always have to work out and stretch if I want to continue to play golf.”

If you check the LPGA’s website each week you can see that at every tour stop players from the tour take part in a charitable event. They go to hospitals, food drives and many other types of events. Lewis is there at each one. She is an active and concerned person. She takes an active role in all the tour’s charity events and has worked with the Scoliosis Research Society this year. At the Open this week Lewis had a fourteen year old girl, and avid golfer, act as standard bearer for her practice round. She is not shy about helping others deal with their issues. “You don’t hear a lot about scoliosis,” said Lewis, “so I’m just trying to put a positive spin on it. Kids should know they can play through it and do whatever they want to do.”

Lewis placed third at last year’s Open and was in the final group with Paula Creamer. She feels her game can help her on an Open course. “My game sets up well for major championships in general. I hit a lot of fairways and greens and then hopefully I can get the putter going. So I like my chances at the US Open as well as other majors.” If Lewis can hit some fairways and a few greens this week she may very well be near the lead on Sunday. Lewis has been in pressure situations before at the NCAA Championships, at The Curtis Cup and at Q-School. She wouldn’t mind being back in the spotlight this week with a chance to walk off with the trophy.

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