LPGA loses honest voice as Lewis exits Twitter

Stacy Lewis was criticized for tweets she posted after the final round of the Reignwood LPGA Classic.

Stacy Lewis’ recent exit from golf’s Twitterverse is disappointing. Rare is the athlete who speaks her mind on a regular basis. Could Lewis, at times, choose her words more wisely? Of course. But in an age of fluff, it’s nice to know there’s a player out there who will speak the truth, even when it’s unpopular.

That being said, Lewis’ comments give Americans a chance to become educated on golf in the new world. The LPGA plays seven events in Asia, where golf is a novel sport. The tour’s inaugural event in Beijing last week likely brought many fans to an LPGA event – what’s more a professional golf event – for the first time.

In the aftermath of a tough loss to hometown favorite Shanshan Feng, Lewis tweeted about her frustrations with Chinese fans. She congratulated Feng, but expressed her utter shock at how she won it.

Lewis’ Sunday Tweets:

• “Congrats to Shan Shan on the win, crazy shot at 18. Very disappointed in the fans in China this week."

• “Between all the cameras and cheering when I missed putts. It was just really hard to have fun out there. On to the next...”

• “Btw, what (sic) till you see the shot on 18 that won it! Lets just say it involved a rock and the flag stick.”

She later tweeted this (after some apparent backlash) and then deleted her account:

“For those whose were actually supportive on twitter, sorry to say I will be signing off of here. I’m sorry I say what I believe.”

There are those who believe Lewis to be a whiney, entitled professional who gripes when things don’t go her way. Let’s address that perception.

The scoliosis-afflicted Lewis wouldn’t have been able to rise to the top of her sport after living much of her life in a back brace if all she did was whine. This Razorback is as competitive as they come, and like most of us, would’ve rather lost to a good shot than a lucky one. Feng’s mis-hit with a 3-wood into the 18th bounded up from the hazard’s edge and hit the flagstick, stopping 3 feet from the hole for eagle. Lewis two-putted for par and lost by one stroke.

Good and bad bounces are part of the game. Lewis knows that. But the day’s frustrations got to her, and she told us how the loss felt. (It’s probably best that she shut it down rather than react to fans and let the situation grow.)

Fans and the media often criticize players for being vanilla. Yet players are crucified the moment they say something remotely controversial or off-script. Can’t have it both ways.

Even Feng didn’t think she hit a good approach into the 18th, dropping her head just after contact.

“I didn’t think it was long enough to get on the green,” she said.

As for the crowds, three years ago the LPGA played in Taiwan for the first time and Yani-mania was unlike anything the U.S. has ever seen. Anyone paired with Tseng spent most of the round policing camera-happy fans. Cell phones were constantly going off, and fans used anything and everything to take pictures during play: phones, cameras, iPads. Some even had their iPads autographed. Elderly fans cut through hilly terrain to get to Tseng and kids climbed trees for a better view. At times, it felt like chaos.

“They just take pictures all the time,” said Azahara Munoz who finished runner-up to Tseng. “We were like backing off and yelling at the end: ‘Dude, put your camera down.’ ”

The whole thing was overwhelming for Tseng, who felt honored and embarrassed at the same time. So many fans swarmed Lewis for an autograph that it took her an hour to get from the scoring tent at the ninth hole to the clubhouse. She was a prime target for the Taiwanese after taking down Tseng earlier that year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Etiquette in Taiwan will come in time. The same goes for China, where golf is taking on a whole new priority as the 2016 Olympics near.

Any foreigner who competed alongside Feng on Sunday would’ve felt as if she were playing an away game. When Angela Stanford missed a 6-foot par putt to win in Singapore last year, fans cheered. The miss put her in a four-way playoff with Jenny Shin, Na Yeon Choi and Feng.

On the cart ride back to the 18th tee, her caddie suggested she think back to her days playing basketball for Boswell High.

“This is an away game,” Brian Dilley told her. “We’re playing in an away gym.”

As Lewis tees it up in Malaysia this week, she’d do well to keep Stanford’s strategy in mind. (Stanford, by the way, wound up becoming the first player to win on Asian soil this century.)

Lewis is not an entitled pro looking to make excuses. She’s one of the most giving players on the LPGA and, since an early age, this bright young woman has made a point of speaking out to make the tour stronger.

Ultimately, this will prove to be an educational moment for Lewis. She’ll learn that like the noodle breaks after every six holes in South Korea, golf in Asia is different. And, as the Chinese become more acquainted with our ancient game, they will adapt in some ways. And, in some ways, they won’t.

That’s OK.

Everyone here is on a learning curve. Lewis isn’t used to being scrutinized so much in her newfound role as top American and will adjust accordingly. The Chinese have a few hundred years left to catch up on golf as we know it.

Once Lewis cools down, let’s hope she returns to Twitter. The game needs her voice.

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