Lewis, King win charity scramble event in Naples

Stacy Lewis, left, and Betsy King, right, won money for their charities by winning the ISPS Handa Heroes, a nine-hole, made-for-TV charity event honoring golf philanthropist Dr. Haruhisa Handa, Monday, Nov. 19 at TwinEagles Golf Club in Naples, Fla.

Naples, Fla. – Stacy Lewis lifted her right hand in triumph one last time as a 25-foot birdie putt found the bottom of the cup. The birdie lifted Lewis and Betsy King to a one-stroke victory at the ISPS Handa Heroes, a nine-hole scramble that will air on Golf Channel Nov. 21 from 8 to 10 p.m.

“I was surprised at how far (Betsy) still hits it, and she putts with the magic putter,” said Lewis, referring to the Bullseye King used for each of her 34 LPGA titles. “I knew we’d team up pretty good.”

Lewis and King beat out three other teams for the $50,000 prize, which goes to their two designated charities, the Scoliosis Research Society and Golf Fore Africa. The three remaining teams – Paula Creamer/Nancy Lopez, Lexi Thompson/Pat Bradley and Brittany Lincicome/Jan Stephenson – received $10,000 each for charity. The made-for-TV event was held at the TwinEagles Golf Club, site of the season-ending CME Group Titleholders.

“It’s nine holes so you get so desperate,” said Stephenson. “You keep second-guessing yourself.”

Lincicome Googled Stephenson’s name to get learn more about her partner prior to their meeting. She’d never even heard of Stephenson’s famous bathtub pose. It was an educational day for several of America’s bright young stars.

Lewis, the first American to win the Rolex Player of the Year award title since 1994, first teamed with King on a mission trip to Rwanda in December 2010 as part of King’s charity Golf Fore Africa, which has raised $1.5 million in five years.

Lewis currently serves on the charity’s board and is helping with their clean water initiative, a $400,000 campaign. A mere $50 can provide clean water to an entire generation in southern Rwanda.

When Lewis visited her World Vision sponsor child, Aline, two years ago in Africa, she brought a goat to the family they could use for trade. As soon as Lewis walked into the family’s home, Aline’s mother put her youngest baby into Stacy’s arms.

“Right away I was part of the family,” she said.

King has helped Lewis find comfort in the idea of playing for money. It was initially a tough transition for Lewis, a no-frills Texan who simply thrives on competition. The standout Arkansas grad felt she didn’t need the riches that came along with her success. Her trip to Africa, however, changed that attitude when she came to realize that the better she played, the more ways she could help.

Lewis stayed at King’s home the next spring while the tour was in Phoenix and the Hall of Famer came to realize even more how similar they were in style.

“I can see a little bit of myself in her, although she’s a lot more talented,” King said. “Kind of quiet and about business.”

And then there’s the obvious: Their hearts for charity.

Today’s event was sponsored by Dr. Haruhisa Handa, a generous lover of the game who has sponsored a number of events in the women’s game, particularly on the Legends Tour. ISPS also sponsors the Australian Open. Lewis was grateful for the opportunity.

“Something we’re doing here today is celebrating our past,” she said, “which I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of doing.”

Thankfully, there’s a Japanese philanthropist who aims to change that.

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