So when teenager Grace Desjardins of Malvern, Pa., wrote the 2009 LPGA rookie and told her about her own struggles with scoliosis, Lewis knew she had to do something to encourage the teen. That ray of hope came in an invitation to this week's U.S. Women's Open Championship in Bethlehem, Pa. In Wednesday's practice round, Desjardins was the standard bearer for Lewis' group, walking alongside the pro, carrying the signboard with the names of the pros in that group, and talking to Lewis about the challenges of scoliosis - an abnormal curvature of the spine.
"I think it's really cool to have someone to look up to and to know it's possible to have fun and to be healthy and successful," said Desjardins, 13, an eighth-grader who was placed in an upper-body brace three years ago to help straighten her spine. "Stacy also had this and now she plays golf really well. It's nice to watch her and know that I can get better."
The correspondence between the two actually began after Desjardins' father read a news article about Lewis and her personal struggle with the condition. Her father wrote Lewis' coach a letter and before long, Lewis had mailed the teen a signed poster and an Arkansas Razorbacks visor from the university where Lewis starred as an All-American member of the women's golf team.
But Lewis also took the time to write a letter to the youngster, encouraging her with details of her own 6½ years of wearing a brace, having surgery on her spine, and ultimately maintaining the determination to end up as one of the best golfers in the world on the LPGA Tour.
"I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 11," said Lewis, 24, of Texas. "At the time, you think your world is coming to an end and that you can't do what you'd normally do, but my parents encouraged me to keep playing golf and I overcame a lot. If I can help someone like Grace, it's something I want to do."
|Grace Desjardins serves as the standard bearer Wednesday during Stacy Lewis' practice round. (Photo courtesy of John Mummert/USGA)|
After her practice round on Wednesday, Lewis gave Desjardins a brand new Mizuno carry bag with a golf umbrella and towel, a dozen golf balls, and hats and shirts from the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA). Lewis told the teen that she hoped she would continue playing golf and maybe someday play college golf.
"I get a ton of letters and emails, but I've kept in touch with Grace," said Lewis, who is a spokesperson for the Scoliosis Research Society (www.srs.org).
"Grace asks questions about how my scoliosis progressed," added Lewis. "I've told her that I am still dealing with it, stretching all the time, and that it's always going to be a part of my life. But there are ways to treat it. I want Grace to know that she can live a normal life. I want her to look at me and see that she can get through those hard days and that the end [of the brace] will come. When I have opportunities like this, it makes everything I do on the golf course worthwhile."
Desjardins says she currently shoots scores in the 60s for nine holes. She wants to get better in golf. Watching Lewis play this week has helped her believe that someday, she could have a similar success story both in golf and with her back.
Lewis gave Desjardins and her family tickets to the Women's Open and the teen will return to Saucon Valley Country Club this week for the competitive rounds.
"I'll be back to watch," said Desjardins. "I just won't be carrying this sign."