by Jeff Skinner
The fact that Stacy Lewis won The Kraft Nabisco Championship isn’t startling news. After all the third year LPGA player has plenty of talent. She went into the Kraft as the 28th ranked player in the world. She has been in the hunt before and getting better each week. She was a college star at Arkansas, a four time All-American and she anchored a successful Curtis Cup with a 5-0 record. This young woman can play golf so the fact that she is taking home the trophy for the first major of the season isn’t shocking. The fact that she is playing golf at all is amazing enough.
She spent close to eight years of her young life in a brace due to scoliosis and faced the prospect of never being able to play golf again. She would only remove her brace to play golf and was hoping by the time she was eighteen she would no longer need it. Unfortunately, at eighteen her doctors told her that her back needed surgery. She had earned a golf scholarship to Arkansas but that would have to wait. She had a steel rod and screws placed in her back. After surgery she spent months in bed and then a year of rehabilitation until she was finally able to play golf again.
It’s a testament to her will and character that she has been able to compete with the best golfers in the world. Her will was tested at The Kraft as she teed off two strokes behind Yani Tseng, the best player in the world. Lewis was not deterred and thought that the pressure was on Tseng. She was right. Tseng was the one that was expected to win but Lewis had ideas of her own. “I think going into today, I think she had ‑‑ I said it last night, but I think she had more pressure on her than I did, just being she won last year and being No. 1. So I was kind of an underdog role, and it actually relaxed me a little more and allowed me to play.”
She knew she had to shoot a low score. Tseng usually puts the hammer down when she has the lead and has three major wins to show for it. But when Lewis birdied two and three and Tseng could only manage par over the first four holes, Lewis had tied her and the race was on. With a birdie on the ninth, Lewis took the lead for good and played with confidence the rest of the way. A birdie at twelve gave her a two stroke lead but it went back to one when Lewis had a bogey at fifteen. A huge par putt and sand save at seventeen combined with Tseng’s back to back bogeys on sixteen an seventeen sealed it for Lewis.
She was able to play eighteen with a three stroke lead and the walk up the eighteenth was sweet indeed. A player’s first win is special, but a major championship as the first win is extra special. Lewis did not succumb to the pressure as many thought she would. She played the best woman in the world on the biggest stage and took her to woodshed. She stole her lunch money and beat her bad. On a championship course in tough conditions with all the pressure in the world on her she flourished. Lewis shot the low score of the day and topped Tseng by five strokes for the round. She had faced her toughest test on the course and came out a winner.
That’s not a surprise. She has been doing that all her life.