BELLEAIR, FLA | A few months ago, Lauren Stephenson’s life off the course was turned upside-down when her younger sister, Hannah, had a cancer scare. Stephenson continued to play, but her golf game reached a breaking point after her second straight missed cut at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship. She decided that it was time to step away and focus on her sister.
After a five-week hiatus, Stephenson got her sister’s blessing to return for the Pelican Women’s Championship. Refreshed, the 25-year-old carded a 4-under 66 in Friday’s opening round.
“After playing bad the last two tournaments, everything in my family life had piled up at that point and I was just like, ‘I need a break,’” Stephenson said. “I feel much more rejuvenated coming into this week.”
Hannah – just 22 years old and currently in graduate school – has already had two surgeries and just finished her last radiation treatment on Friday in Houston. Stephenson prepared for the Pelican Women’s Championship by spending the week before the tournament with Hannah during a round of treatments.
Though Hannah is no golf coach, she was able to teach her older sister an important lesson: golf is just a game.
“My sister has been battling a cancer scare, so it’s kind of been nothing golf related for me for the last few months,” Stephenson said. “So, it just felt nice to be able to feel blessed to be out here and have the mindset that golf doesn't matter. We all have real lives when we go outside of golf. Knowing that it’s just a golf tournament and I’m just here to have fun, it gives me such a different perspective. I’m just super thankful to be here.”
Stephenson’s new attitude certainly did wonders for her game, allowing her to bounce back quickly after she bogeyed her first hole. The American carded six birdies and just two bogeys for her minus-four opening round.
“The first hole my shot didn't react how I had thought, and 10 green is just crazy, so didn't really get too flustered by it,” Stephenson said. “Just moved on, chalked it up to a learning hole.”
Stephenson will be taking her improved mindset with her wherever she goes over the next few weeks. No. 76 in the Race to CME Globe, Stephenson has a chance to punch her ticket to the coveted end of the year tournament with a strong performance this week. Though Stephenson would be happy to go, she’s not going to sweat it if she doesn’t make it.
“Honestly, I have a whole pro-am booked next week to go to Pebble Beach,” Stephenson said. “I’m like, ‘If I make it, great. If not, I’m just going to go have a vacation with my sister and my friends.’ I have a chance and I feel like this year has been a great year overall, not exactly where I wanted to be, but it's never bad to have a chance for CME. I also know that if I don’t make it, I’m not going to be super disappointed.”