Lewis trailed final-round partner Yani Tseng, the world’s most dominant and No. 1-ranked player, by two strokes at Mission Hills Country Club. It seemed like long odds for a player who had yet to win on the LPGA. Inspired by a media member giving the title to Tseng after the third round, she came on strong on Sunday. By the fifth hole, Lewis was tied with Tseng, led at the turn and shot 69 to win by three strokes, capping it with an 18-foot par putt on the 17th hole.
That was not the first obstacle Lewis has overcome. She battled scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, as a teenager after wearing a brace the majority of the time and underwent back surgery during her senior year in high school. (Her web site is www.stacysback.com.) In college at the University of Arkansas, she placed second in Player of the Year selections to Duke’s three-time Player of the Year Amanda Blumenherst. While maintaining excellence on the course, Lewis also earned a double degree in Finance and Accounting. When Lewis won the 2008 LPGA Qualifying Tournament, she was overshadowed by Michelle Wie also gaining her card.
“When I get behind a wall I just seem to find my way, claw my way out,” Lewis said. “I seem to do it a lot. I don’t usually have the spotlight – someone else does – and that drives me.”
Lewis became the fourth player in LPGA history to record her first career LPGA victory at the Kraft Nabisco, joining Helen Alfredsson (1993), Nanci Bowen (1995) and Morgan Pressel (2007). The major championship win kick-started the best season of her career, with two runner-up finishes, 12 top-10s, a fourth-place finish on the money list and a spot on the Solheim Cup team. Her consistency has continued this season, with top-25 finishes in all five starts, with a best a T2 at the season-opening ISPS Handa Australian Open. She is currently ranked ninth in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Lewis is paired in today’s first round with Natalie Gulbis, in the pairing preceding Tseng and Paula Creamer.