MOBILE, Ala. – Any nerves Stacy Lewis felt on Sunday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship were insignificant compared to what she felt headed to the Avnet LPGA Classic. In California, Lewis outran Yani Tseng; this week she finished ahead of a tornado.
“I was pretty lucky,” said Lewis, who drove 90 mph through Little Rock, Ark., Monday afternoon with shaky hands.
Lewis sits two shots behind Sandra Gal through two rounds in Mobile. This marks the LPGA’s first event since the Kraft, where Lewis took down World No. 1 Tseng for her first tour title.
One week ago Lewis was in Fayetteville, Ark., when hail the size of golf balls covered the practice area of Blessings Golf Club. Lewis stood inside the clubhouse feeling helpless as her dark gray Lexus IS 350 was getting pounded in the parking lot. Even her windshield is cracked from the storm.
On Sunday, Lewis found out her 6 a.m. Monday flight was canceled due to weather and rescheduled to 3:30 p.m. She got one mile from the airport the next afternoon only to discover the roads were closed. Consequently, the airport was closed. The next flight out was Tuesday afternoon and bad weather was on its way. She began driving South, and called her dad.
Dale Lewis was at work in Texas and got online to look at the weather. He advised against trying to get a flight out of Dallas and told her to begin the 10-hour journey to Mobile.
Just outside of Little Rock, Lewis noticed a dark wall of clouds looming. Weather service announcements interrupted her music on the radio with tornado warnings, but she didn’t know the location of the counties mentioned. Cars had begun pulling off to the side of the road. She stopped and called her dad.
Dale again pulled up a weather map, saw what was coming and told his middle child to drive as fast as she could.
“I think I was driving 90,” said Lewis. “I don’t know how I got out ahead of it.”
A little while later her dad called to say he’d heard a church had been wiped out by a tornado in Conway, which is where Lewis hit the accelerator.
“It was a stressful drive to say the least,” said Lewis, who stopped for the night in Jackson, Miss., and pulled into Mobile the next morning around 9 a.m.
Lewis was inundated with media requests after the Kraft, enough to the point she told her agent she needed a break. Her mother’s leg injury during the celebratory jump heightened the interest surrounding her victory. Lewis said she’d jump again if given the chance.
“It was just a freak thing,” she said. “My mom said ‘You need to tell them they can’t change the tradition because of me.’ ”
Lewis had to “fight” her way around The Crossings Course on Friday, carding a 1-under 71. She’s now more comfortable seeing her name on the leaderboard, and no longer feels the pressure to make loads of birdies early in the week.
“I think I won the Kraft on Saturday,” said Lewis, who held together a 71 while Tseng scorched the Dinah Shore Tournament Course in 66. “You have your good days, but most of the time it’s how you manage the bad days. That’s what I learned.”