Golf is a solitary pursuit carried out in a collective atmosphere. The game is also all about perseverance. Nothing shouts those twin messages louder than the victory by Stacy Lewis on Sunday in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.
That the gritty extra-hole triumph was the first victory by Lewis since she became a Mom is only part of her story.
That the Ladies Scottish Open was the first LPGA event outside the United States in the Covid-19 era is only part of its story.
And those two tales are tied together by a thread that stitches the word perseverance.
“Since I've had her, it feels like [it’s] the second part of my career just because everything is so different,” Lewis said in Scotland about her daughter Chesnee. “The way I play golf is different. The way I go about things is different. The way I think about things is different.”
Her adjustments seem to have placed her on a positive path. Her coach, Joe Hallett, told this story in a text message after Lewis won.
“When I took off from Toledo [after Stacy finished T-9 in the Marathon Classic] as only she can do we kind of both stood over to the side and she looked up at me and said, ‘We’re doing the right things and we’re going the right direction with the swing. I can just feel it.’”
She proved that at The Renaissance Club when she outlasted Cheyenne Knight, Azahara Munoz and Emily Pedersen in a playoff Lewis won on the first extra hole with a 25-foot birdie putt.
“The only disappointing thing is that she's not here to take a picture with this, but I have been trying to get a trophy from the day she was born,” Lewis said.
“I just got to FaceTime with them,” she said about her family back in Houston. “My husband said she was hitting the TV screen with her plastic golf clubs when I made that putt. So it's just pretty cool. I can't wait to get home with them in a week or so and celebrate.”
For Lewis, the story begins in her teenage years, which were spent in a back brace to fix scoliosis. When the brace came off, doctors said she’d need surgery anyway.
But she persevered, a Drive-On trait her body language on the golf course shouts out in no uncertain words.
Lewis sat out her freshman year of eligibility at the University of Arkansas but responded by being a four-time All-American for the Razorbacks.
Her pro debut was T-3 in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open as she tried unsuccessfully to earn her LPGA card off the money list.
But she persevered. Lewis went to Q school – and won it.
Her first official LPGA win was a major – the 2011 ANA Inspiration. From 2012 through 2014, Lewis won 10 times, was Rolex Player of the Year in 2012 and 2014 – the only American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to take that honor – and won another major at the 2013 AIG Women’s Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
But after the 2014 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Lewis went 82 starts until winning the 2017 Cambia Portland Classic. Remarkably, before the event Lewis said she’d donate her winnings to Hurricane Harvey relief in Houston. That ended up being $390,000.
The corner she turned in Portland found new obstacles. Until Sunday at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland, another 41 starts passed before she picked up career win No. 13.
But she persevered.
And now Lewis is doing her job as a 35-year-old mother, Chesnee Lynn Chadwell being born to Stacy and her husband Gerrod in October 2018.
“I think having a kid has brought me some more patience, I really do,” Lewis said Sunday. “When she starts crying, if I get worked up, it's going to make it worse.”
Stacy the Mom didn’t have to relearn golf – she had to relearn her approach to golf.
“That first year was so hard,” she said. “I look back at when she was six, eight months old, I don't know how I did it. I was so tired. You're not sleeping. If we had our WHOOP bands then, I'm sure my recoveries would have been pretty close to zero.”
At the 2019 HUGEL-AIR PREMIA Open, Lewis opened with a 65 despite spending the previous night at a hospital with Chesnee for what ended up being teething pain.
“I do feel like I’m running on fumes, though,” said Lewis, who ended up T-10. “Had a three-hour [sleep] night,” Lewis said.
Lewis, who is as honest as she is insightful, has made motherhood about more than herself – she’s made it about all women in the workplace. Because she was among the female athletes who spoke out, sponsors and governing bodies adjusted their policies toward women on maternity leave.
And once again, Lewis made her victory about more than herself.
“So excited that we get to keep playing and just so thankful for all of our sponsors that are allowing us to play over here, the Scottish government, thank you so much forgetting women's golf going again and helping us be able to play and help the local charities,” she said.
The tournament was the result of the collective efforts of sponsors, local and national governments, the LPGA, the LET and their players. Next up is the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon on the west coast of Scotland.
When Lewis won at St. Andrews in 2013, she sealed it with a 5-iron from 175 yards on the Road Hole – the famed 17th at the Old Course – that landed short of the green and chased to 5 feet – a brilliant links-style golf shot.
On that day, as she has so many times, Lewis persevered.
In this second part of her career, Lewis may not have to wait as long to give Chesnee another opportunity to bang that plastic golf club on the TV set.
Now, it’s that TV that has to persevere.