Nov. 3 is rapidly approaching for mom-to-be Stacy Lewis. And her priorities are already beginning to shift.
Instead of thinking about her next practice session or shot on the course, Lewis’ mind drifts frequently to how she'll decorate the baby's room and when her next nap is coming.
But, this week is a little different.
She returns to the state of Arkansas for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Golf Course, which is just 25 miles north of her four-year college home of Fayetteville.
“I’m super excited to back,” said Lewis in the media center on Tuesday. “It’s just a week I really love.”
Lewis gushes with pride when she gets to talk about Arkansas and the program she helped build from the ground up. She arrived in Fayetteville in 2005 and immediately made her mark. She won the SEC Championship as a freshman and bookended her career with another conference crown in 2008. In 2007, she owned college golf and won the individual National Championship.
It’s been ten years since Lewis graduated from Arkansas, but her impact on the program is still being felt. This week is a prime example, as four Razorbacks are in the field. Fellow LPGA member Gaby Lopez will compete along with current Razorbacks Dylan Kim and Maria Fassi.
“Oh my gosh, I’m not even sure I could put Stacy’s impact on our program into words,”Arkansas head coach Shauna Taylor told LPGA.com. “She was super-instrumental in putting Arkansas women’s golf on the map. I could never thank her enough, not only for what she did while she was a player at Arkansas, but for what she continues to do to promote our team, our program and our university.”
Lewis serves as a volunteer assistant coach, makes appearances during team practices when her schedule allows, was on the search committee to choose a new athletic director in 2017 and has donated over $100,000 to expand the facilities at Blessings, the home course for Arkansas golf.
Lewis has made nine starts this year and as her schedule winds down she will play three of the next four weeks, concluding at the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I in mid-July. And she's looking forward to a break.
The pregnancy has, of course, made managing the summer heat and remaining well-rested a challenge.
“Things have definitely gotten harder over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” explained Lewis. “I’m looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and be a mom, super-excited.”
While her results don’t stack up to her first nine years on Tour, Lewis said the pregnancy has barely impacted her on-course performance except for a few yards here and there off the tee.
“Probably not hitting the driver as far, but the irons are still going the same distance,” said Lewis, who has one top 10 this season. “There are quite a few holes on this golf course where you’re not hitting driver anyway, so that’s why I’m excited about this week because I feel I can still be pretty competitive.”
Lewis was asked when she expects to return in 2019 and she left the door open for a January return at the inaugural Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
“I definitely want to play, I know that,” said Lewis about returning. “How soon, I’m not exactly sure."
This week is a special one for Lewis, who will be the center of attention and she deserves every second of it. She was responsible for changing the culture of Arkansas women’s golf and she's been one of the faces of American golf for a decade.
“When Stacy was a player at Arkansas, we were trying to change the culture of the program from not finishing last to putting ourselves in a position to win championships," said Taylor. "At that time, we were just starting to climb, and we have been able to continue to move up the mountain, thanks, in part, to Stacy’s success at Arkansas and as a professional. We have changed the culture and now we expect to win championships.”
Before Lewis arrived at Arkansas, the program had won four team titles and had zero All-Americans. Since Lewis came on board, the program has produced 17 All-Americans and earned 22 team titles.
"This tournament is one of the biggest events that comes to town and it's important for our tour," said Lewis. "There is no other college program that has what these girls get. To have it in their backyard where they can come and watch and see what it takes to be the best is huge. I know for me it was huge just to see where my game stacked up."