Lewis gives the LPGA reason to celebrate the Americans

Stacy Lewis signs an autograph for a fan early week at the CME Group Titleholders.

Naples, Fla. – Cristie Kerr knows what it’s like to achieve a lifelong dream, only to find weeks later that not much has changed. When Kerr rose to No. 1 in the world after her decisive victory at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, she enjoyed a brief media blitz. But, it’s not as if sponsors lined up the next day and mainstream magazines clamored to put her on the cover.

Nothing against Kerr. It would be surprising, in fact, if Stacy Lewis moved the needle much more after wrapping up Rolex Player of the Year honors last Sunday.

“They (the LPGA) need to capitalize on it,” Kerr said of Lewis’ accomplishment.

Lewis doesn’t have any glitter to go along with her substance. But the Texan’s story of overcoming a back brace she wore 18 hours a day as a teenager, taking it off only to play golf and swim, makes her an incredible role model for those facing tough odds. Lewis should be celebrated as much for her toughness as she is for her talent.

To have a chance at becoming a household name, however, Lewis needs to deliver much more of the same in 2013.

It wasn’t until Mexico last week that Kerr won for the first time since becoming No. 1 in June 2010. It was a frustrating drought, similar to one she faced after winning her first major at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open. There’s a bit of deflation that tends to follow outstanding achievements. Just ask two-time Player of the Year Yani Tseng.

“After last year I thought it wasn’t too hard,” said Tseng of following up a great season. “But when you play a couple bad tournaments people start talking, and that’s how it starts getting really hard.”

Earlier this year, the Orlando-based Tseng posted a picture from a Magic basketball game and was saddened by some of the comments left by Taiwanese fans who wanted to know why the struggling World No. 1 wasn’t out practicing. Tseng said she realizes that for every 1,000 fans who support her there might be 10 naysayers. It’s awfully hard for someone who cares as much as Tseng to block out the minority. But, she’s learning.

Kerr came within six points of tying Tseng in the 2010 Rolex Player of the Year race. She said a look at the winners these last 20 years shows that those who manage to capture the tour’s biggest prize are “very consistent mentally and emotionally.”

“I think that’s what I’ve found in the last week with myself is I’ve been more like that,” said Kerr, who opened the season-ending CME Group Titleholders with a 5-under 67 to trail by one stroke.

Lewis must win this week’s event to eclipse Inbee Park in the money race. She also has a chance at winning the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. Such an American sweep would be a noted accomplishment since, like the POY award, no American has won the Vare Trophy since Beth Daniel in 1994. Betsy King was the last American to win the money title in 1993.

Lewis opened in Naples with a 2-under 70. She will accept her Player of the Year award on Friday night.

“I think they need to make a really big deal about the fact that Stacy won POY,” Kerr said. “It’s great that we have a global tour, but you still need to celebrate the Americans.”

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