Lewis, Creamer will drive U.S. at Solheim Cup

Paula Creamer (right) receives some advice from teammate Stacy Lewis during a practice round at The Colorado Golf Club.

Paula Creamer (right) receives some advice from teammate Stacy Lewis during a practice round at The Colorado Golf Club.

PARKER, Colo. – Stacy Lewis walked off the ninth green and took out a Sharpie. One by one she went down the line, signing hats, tickets, snapshots, even a European flag. Roughly 100 autographs in, Lewis stopped in front of a 14-year-old girl who lifted her gray T-shirt and asked, “Will you sign my back brace?”

“Amazing how life just stops when that happens,” said Lewis’ instructor, Joe Hallett.

Lewis spent a few moments chatting with the young girl, whose surgery is scheduled for September, and then waded through a dense Solheim Cup crowd to take the catwalk to the range. Fifteen families have requested private meetings with Lewis this week to talk about scoliosis. Because of the nature of this team event, and a jam-packed, sunup-to-sundown schedule, Lewis can’t possibly fit that in. But she’ll sign autographs and exchange pleasantries until there’s no one left. She gets it. And her popularity is steadily climbing.

Lewis played nine holes Thursday afternoon at Colorado Golf Club alongside Paula Creamer, America’s Solheim sweetheart since 2005. They looked the part of wily veterans, though both are only in their 20s. Lewis and Creamer represent the essence of American golf, and they’ll drive this team.

“When you think of the Solheim, you think of Paula,” Lewis said. “That’s just how it is.”

But now, Lewis is right there with her, sharing the load.

They couldn’t be more different in how they got here, how they’re perceived and what makes them tick. Creamer has known nothing but the spotlight; Lewis toiled in the shadows, overcoming her own crooked spine to outshine them all. Creamer revels in fancy dresses and high-priced heels; Lewis lives in jeans and flip flops. One commands a room while the other sits quietly and observes.

What they share is a heart to win.

Lewis is the only homegrown player who has stepped up to challenge first Yani Tseng and now Inbee Park. Two weeks removed from a spectacular victory at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, Lewis comes into the Solheim ranked No. 2, the undisputed heavyweight here.

She’s also a proven leader, having come up through the college ranks, a Curtis Cup MVP and now, a key member of various LPGA committees.

It was Lewis who approached Creamer earlier in the year and said “take a rookie under your wing and be what Juli (Inkster) was to you.”

Lewis commended Creamer for her efforts in mentoring. U.S. captain Meg Mallon asked Lewis to teach rookies Lexi Thompson and Lizette Salas the art of match-play strategy.

Creamer has scored at least three points in all four Solheim Cup appearances. She has an overall record of 11-3-5.

“There’s nothing better than this week,” said Creamer, who is as spirited as she is fierce. In her Solheim debut, Creamer sent a message to the field at Crooked Stick with a 7-and-5 pounding of Laura Davies. It was the start of what’s sure to be a rich Solheim legacy.

Lewis’ debut in Ireland two years ago, however, couldn’t have been more different. She finished a disappointing 1-3-0 and experienced a team loss. When she looked back on the TV coverage, Lewis was frustrated with herself in how she handled adversity that week. The slumped shoulders, the bad attitude. But she learned a lot about herself, and said she wouldn’t trade the experience.

“If that Solheim doesn’t happen,” Lewis said, “I don’t do what I did the last two years.”

Lewis birdied the last two holes at the Old Course on Aug. 4 to collect her second major title, and, after a short celebration at The Dunvegan in St. Andrews, Scotland, with the rest of the Solheim Cup crew, got to bed early to prepare for her flight to Denver. Mallon kept her from doing any interviews when she got back on U.S. soil.

“I got to calm down,” Lewis said.

She has made four visits to Colorado Golf Club and played the course at least a dozen times, meaning this week didn’t have to be a cram session for the highly astute player. She spent four days at home in south Florida, and flew into the mile-high pressure-cooker feeling refreshed and focused. The Old Course felt like ancient history.

In the team room, Lewis said there’s cornhole and a mini basketball goal. Players and caddies put a piece of tape on the floor to see who could hit the longest shot. Angela Stanford currently holds the record.

It’s in this room that Lewis and Creamer will let down their curls and laugh. It’s also where they will team together to stir up a fight.

And they’ll do it with class.

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