Expectant mother Stacy Lewis sets sights on U.S. Women’s Open success

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Expectant mother Stacy Lewis sets sights on U.S. Women’s Open success

Golf

Expectant mother Stacy Lewis sets sights on U.S. Women’s Open success

SHOAL CREEK, Ala. – When Stacy Lewis’ golf ball clanked off a sprinkler head near the green on the 71st hole, essentially erasing her chance to win the LPGA Volvik Championship last weekend, steam did not pour from her ears. She was frustrated, of course, but angry Lewis did not prevail.

Motherhood, it turns out, has already mellowed the two-time major winner.

“There are more important and better things coming,” said Lewis, who is due with her first child Nov. 3. “If I happen to win the tournament great, if I don’t, it’s OK.”

A come-what-may mentality will serve 33-year-old Lewis well at the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open, where the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto have dumped 4.76 inches of rain at Shoal Creek since late Sunday afternoon. Mud balls, squirty shots and soggy fairways will provide an extreme test of patience at what’s already considered the toughest major.

This is the championship Lewis wants the most. She first contended at the 2008 Women’s Open in her professional debut, playing alongside Paula Creamer in the final group and ultimately tying for third. The frugal finance and accounting major still drives the same 2009 Lexus she bought with her $162,487 paycheck. Nearly a decade later, the odometer reads 65,000 miles.

“I thought about getting rid of it,” Lewis said. “But I can’t do it. It’s paid for.”

Pregnancy puts Lewis in the spotlight

For Lewis, playing golf for a living was never about the money. She plays for trophies, for the satisfaction of being the best at her craft. Pregnancy, however, has put a unique spotlight on money for Lewis and husband Gerrod Chadwell. Not because they need more of it; but for others who feel they can’t pursue both a family and career on the LPGA.

Lewis plans to compete through the Marathon Classic in mid-July and return for a full season in 2019, eyeing a third chance to play under Captain Juli Inkster at the Solhem Cup at Gleneagles.

As the 12-time winner began to share the happy news with friends, family and sponsors, she received an unexpected follow-up phone call from KPMG. Players generally get paid by sponsors based on the number of tournaments they compete in. For example, if Lewis had to play in a minimum of 20 events and played in only 10, she’d get half the pay.

KPMG decided to pay Lewis the full amount on the contract regardless of the number of events she played.

“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,” Lewis said. “Which I was pretty blown away by, shocked to get that phone call really.”

She hopes KPMG’s move will spur on others to do the same. After a decline in births on the LPGA, Lewis is part of a recent baby boom. Suzann Pettersen, Brooke Pancake and Karine Icher are all pregnant. Gerina Piller, who took off the entire 2018 season, recently gave birth to son A.J.

“In our sport you don’t get paid unless you play,” Lewis said. “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.”

So far, no drawbacks

Lewis, who is four months pregnant, hasn’t lost any yardage thus far in her pregnancy. Hasn’t lost her stamina either. Her short game has actually improved.

Catriona Matthew, a 48-year-old mother of two, said that usually hits after the five-month mark.

“You just start hitting it nowhere,” Matthew said. “You’ve lost the speed. You don’t realize, I suppose, how much your body is working. You don’t think you should be tired, but you are.”

In the modern era of the LPGA, the only players to win majors after having kids are Nancy Lopez, Juli Inkster and Catriona Matthew. Inkster actually won four of her seven majors after becoming a mom.

Matthew won the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open 11 weeks after giving birth for a second time. She also won the HSBC LPGA Brazil Cup, an unofficial event, while five months pregnant. Lopez, a mother of three, won twice on the LPGA while pregnant.

Shauna Estes-Taylor, head coach at Arkansas and mom to Gracie, believes Lewis’ pregnancy is a nice distraction from the want-to, have-to mindset that can plague players at big events.

Several weeks ago, a somewhat lost Lewis went to back to Fayetteville, Ark., and spent a couple days with Estes-Taylor.

“Am I good enough? Can I still do it?” she wondered.

The questions floored Estes-Taylor as much as the low hooks she hit on the range. Lewis left Arkansas with a pep in her step, and rode that renewed confidence to the final group in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“She’s an artist,” Estes-Taylor said. “She was pretty heavy technically, and needed to be more of a shot-maker. That’s what makes her great.”

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