DALY CITY, Calif. – When Stacy Lewis withdrew from the LPGA event in Thailand in February with an oblique strain, her longtime caddie Travis Wilson told her something good would come from it. One day after she returned to Texas, Lewis found out she was pregnant. Exhausted, she took a nap every day. Turns out Lewis’ first big injury as an LPGA player (post-spinal fusion) couldn’t have come at a better time.
Lewis, 33, and husband Gerrod Chadwell, 40, always knew they wanted to have kids. Around Christmastime last year they started talking about the ideal time. Lewis wanted to play a third time for Captain Juli Inkster at the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles. Chadwell, head women’s golf coach at Houston, has the most flexibility around the holidays.
The couple’s Nov. 3 due date works out beautifully. Lewis plans to compete through the Marathon Classic in mid-July and play a full season in 2019, when Solheim points are doubled.
“Golf has never gotten in the way of anything in my personal life,” said Lewis. “Family is important to me. It’s more important than any golf tournament I’m going to play in. I thought about it a little bit from the golf side, but on the other hand, it’s like what did we want for our family.”
Inkster’s reaction to the news: Definitely need daycare at Solheim.
As Lewis began to tell friends, family and sponsors the happy news, she got an unexpected follow-up phone call from KPMG. The way most sponsorship contracts are written, Lewis said, players get paid based in part on the number of tournaments they compete in. For example, if she had to play in a minimum number of 20 events and played in only 10, she’d get half the pay.
“(KPMG) called me a couple days later and said they wanted to pay me for the whole contract, regardless of the number of tournaments I played in,” said Lewis. “They see me as a member of their team and their family and they wanted to treat me like any other female in their organization that has a baby. Which I was pretty blown away by, shocked to get that phone call really.”
Lewis’ major sponsorship portfolio is strong: KPMG, Marathon, PureSilk, Mizuno and Antigua. It’s possible that other companies on her team may follow suit.
Lewis has reached the pinnacle of the sport and made far more than most. She’s grateful for the money, of course, but more than that, she’s excited about what KPMG’s decision could mean for future moms on tour. Perhaps companies will one day write a maternity-leave clause into contracts.
“In our sport you don’t get paid unless you play,” said Lewis. “Take away tournaments, you take away income from both sides. That money is not guaranteed unless you play. For a lot of people who are thinking about starting a family, that’s a deal-breaker.”
There was no maternity leave on the LPGA when Inkster, 57, had her kids. She was back on tour six weeks after giving birth to both of her daughters. The LPGA introduced maternity leave decades ago. And a full child development program began in 1993.
Lewis never really considered taking years off to start her family or stop playing altogether.
“She still thinks she has a lot of great golf ahead of her,” said Chadwell, “and I agree.”
That being said, Lewis has always known that she might have a shorter window physically than most, given her back. Her body gets more tired these days, doesn’t handle cold weather well. But she has long had a vision of how she wanted to start a family on the LPGA.
“I’ve always wanted my kids to be a part of it,” said Lewis. “They won’t probably remember anything, but at least there will be pictures, and they’ll know that they were.”