Kraft champ Lewis trails Kim at Women's Open

Stacy Lewis during the U.S. Women's Open

Stacy Lewis during the U.S. Women's Open

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Stacy Lewis has a mind that’s made for majors. Wearing a back brace through middle school and high school makes a person tough. Lewis, who was diagnosed with Scoliosis at age 11, learned to embrace difficult conditions early on in life.

Perhaps that’s why she thrives at venues such as The Broadmoor, the longest track in U.S. Women’s Open history with 18 mind-bending greens. Lewis opened with a 3-under 68 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the conclusion of the first round. She grabbed a bite to eat and went right back out and quickly built a three-shot lead. 

A rain delay late in the afternoon, however, killed her momentum. Lewis bogeyed the 14th and double-bogeyed the 15th to drop to 2 under. Her marathon day ended on the 16th with a nice par save from the bunker before play was suspended due to darkness. Lewis trails I.K. Kim by two strokes.

“We sat in a school bus,” Lewis said of the way she spent the thunderstorm delay. “It was 20 people in a little school bus. There was no place to go, you couldn’t do anything, it was hard to get loose again. Just kind of unfortunate – unfortunate the way it all worked out, I guess.”

Only 33 of the 156 players made it through their second round Friday and 66 never made it to their tee time.

Lewis finished third in her first U.S. Open as a professional, in 2008. Mentally, she’s an entirely different player than she was back then. To start, she’s a major winner, having overtaken Yani Tseng at the Kraft Nabisco in April. She also tied for sixth two weeks ago at the Wegmans LPGA Championshp.

“She’s so smart,” said Arkansas coach Shauna Estes-Taylor. “That’s why she does so good in majors. … She knows where her ball is going. Now her short game has gotten to a place where she can contend any week.”

Lewis has one missed cut in 10 LPGA events this year. Otherwise, she hasn’t finished outside the top 30 with five top-10 finishes.

Thunderstorms kept Lewis and half the field from teeing off on Thursday. She passed time during the delay in the locker room playing gin with good friend Brittany Lincicome. Both players spent Tuesday at ESPN headquarters doing a host of television programs. They’ll also spend all day together on the golf course grinding through the first two rounds. It’s a comfortable pairing for Lewis, who goes to Tour Fellowship each week with Lincicome.

Lewis works hard in the gym to keep her back strong and minimize pain. She’s been regimented with her workouts since she began college. She had back surgery the summer before her freshman year. Doctors deflated a lung and shifted organs around to place a steel rod in her back. She makes it a point to meet with young girls who face the same surgery at tournaments throughout the year, offering them encouragement and inspiration.

Lewis is currently fifth on the LPGA money list and has secured a spot on this year’s Solheim Cup team. Not bad for a player the college coach who recruited her once referred to as a “decent signee.” Few imagined this skinny girl from Texas would become one of the country’s top amateurs and a major force on the LPGA.

The mind can be a powerful thing.

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