Baldry: Stacy Lewis peaking at the right time

Stacy Lewis

Stacy Lewis

GALLOWAY, N.J. – The rankings confirm the obvious: Stacy Lewis is the top American on the LPGA.

Lewis won for the second time in three events at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, overtaking Cristie Kerr, who has been the No. 1 American since Nov. 23, 2009. Lewis will move to No. 3 in the world behind Yani Tseng and Na Yeon Choi. Kerr is projected to drop to seventh.

“I mean, you dream of it, and you kind of can see yourself there eventually,” Lewis said of becoming America’s best. “But for it to actually happen, it’s just unbelievable.”

Lewis, 27, is often overlooked out here. She’s not flashy or frilly. She’s a salt-of-the-earth kind of gal. Her close friend Brittany Lincicome calls her cheap, but the better word probably is sensible. Little girls aren’t likely to copy her style of dress. She doesn’t have a signature color or accessory.

No, what Lewis does is far more important: She inspires.

June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month. And Lewis, who grew up wearing a back brace and had surgery during her senior year of high school, is a walking example of perseverance.

“An amazing journey,” he father Dale said via text. “We just hoped she would make the top 5 of the Razorback golf team.”

An LPGA staffer played the Arkansas fight song as Lewis walked into the media room at Seaview. Lewis, an NCAA champion, not only made the lineup but put the Arkansas women's golf program on the map.

After that ascent, we shouldn’t be surprised to see her mature so quickly in the professional ranks. Lewis won the 2008 LPGA Q-School. She captured her first victory at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco and played on the U.S. Solheim Cup team. Toward the end of last year, she realized the role of top American was within her grasp. With Tseng so far ahead in the rankings, she made supplanting Kerr her No. 1 goal.

“I’ve blown my goals for the year out of the water,” Lewis said.

Lincicome points to Lewis’ putting when asked what part of her game has shown the most improvement. Lewis adopted the Aimpoint green-reading system 18 months ago and said it has helped her better understand the complexities of greens. She’s now more consistent.

“There were putts out there that broke four or five times,” Lewis said of this week’s Donald Ross design.

Lewis built her lead to as many as nine strokes on Sunday after posting birdies on four of the first eight holes. But, like her two previous rounds, she couldn’t escape without a double bogey. Lewis slammed her putter on her bag after a three-putt on the 12th.

“Honestly, it relieved me so much,” she said. “It got (out) all the tension that was in my hands.”

While Lewis doesn’t necessarily condone club-slamming, that kind of honest remark makes her easy to appreciate. She’s a no-nonsense player, and, in her own way, that kind of frankness separates her from so many on tour. Lewis simply needs more people to listen.

“I had a pretty good year last year and kind of got overlooked,” Lewis said. “So that was definitely a little bit of motivation coming into this year.”

Lewis’ Q-rating lags behind that of Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson and good friend Natalie Gulbis. She knows that. But Lewis, still a young player on tour, has served on several committees and is committed to doing what it takes for the overall health of the tour. When it comes to hot-button issues, Lewis has opinions, and she isn’t afraid to express them. She quickly has become a key member of this tour.

And here’s the best part: Lewis’ game is built for the majors. She picked a good time to peak.

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