Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Circumstances were so very much stacked against her but Stacy Lewis has not only made a career but a lifetime of beating the odds. She probably never should have played golf, much less have risen to the top of her profession.
But despite her longtime physical challenges, Lewis has overcome them to become one of the best players in women’s golf. And her performance in 2012 earns her Global Golf Post’s Female Player of the Year.
That, paired with the Rolex Player of the Year on the LPGA Tour, the first time an American has earned that award since Beth Daniel did it 18 years ago. And as a bit of serendipity, Daniel presented the award to Lewis at the awards dinner during the week of the CME Titleholders, the last event of the year on the LPGA Tour.
Lewis won four times on the LPGA Tour in 2012 and had 16 top-10 finishes. She won the Mizuno Classic, the ShopRite LPGA Classic, the Navistar LPGA Classic and the Mobile Bay Championship. She didn’t win a major but she tied for second at the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the Evian Masters, which will be a major in 2013, and tied for fourth at the Kraft Nabisco.
“Since the middle of the year, my goal has been to be the Player of the Year,” Lewis said. “It's something an American hasn't done since 1994. I wanted to end that trend. That's the big-picture goal. Day to day is just (to) give myself chances to win every week. You still have to do the little things right, give yourself a chance to win on Sunday and see what happens from there.”
In her fourth year on the LPGA Tour, Lewis already holds one major championship, the 2011 Kraft Nabisco, which was her first victory on Tour. Since then, her career has experienced a steady climb. She has three other top-five finishes in majors and this year she was third in putts per green in regulation, third in greens in regulation and third in scoring average.
“I think that combination sets your scoring numbers, and that's been the difference in the numbers,” Lewis said. “But I think overall, my swing has kind of fully gotten better over the last probably year and a half where it's a lot more solid now.
“And this year I've putted so good that that's the difference. You win golf tournaments with your putter. You don't win it with your driver. So your golf swing can be as good as you want, but if you don't make the putts, you're not going to win anything.”
Lewis found out when she was 11 years old that she had scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. As a result, she wore a back brace 18½ hours a day, only removing it to play golf. In her senior year in high school, the back brace was set aside, but the malformation was getting worse.
She underwent surgery during which a rod and five screws were inserted in her spine. After three more months in a brace and six months of rehab, Lewis amazingly started playing golf again. During her career at Arkansas, she won 12 college tournaments, including the 2007 individual NCAA Championship. She was a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team in 2008 and was the first player in history to go 5-0 for the matches.
In 2007, while an amateur, she received a sponsor’s exemption to the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship and shot a first-round 65 to lead the tournament. Eventually, the final two rounds were washed out and Lewis was declared the winner, although the tournament was declared unofficial because it did not complete 36 holes. She also tied for fifth at the Kraft Nabisco that year to be the tournament’s low amateur.
She turned professional in 2008 in mid-summer and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, where she led the championship through three rounds, played in the final group on Sunday and wound up finishing tied for third. She gained playing privileges on the LPGA Tour in December of that year, winning Q-School by three shots over a talented field.
It was then that her story began to be told and people all over the world started to look at her as an inspiration, a role model along with her performance as a championship golfer.
“I don't know, I guess I am,” she said. “I definitely get a lot of e-mails and letters from kids that they look up to me, things like that. I don't know if I see myself that way, because I just know what I went through with scoliosis, that’s something that I had to go through at the time and I didn’t have really any option. I don’t know if I am but other people say I am.”
And that number is growing.
Mike Purkey at the Global Golf Post


Wise guidance from respected old hands and the love of a good woman inspired Rory McIlroy – Global Golf Post’s 2012 Player of the Year – to heights this year unimagined even by his lofty standards. And without giving hostages to fortune, he has reason to be confident of a similar outcome in 2013.
Predictably, the majors will be his prime targets once more, having tucked away the significant bonus of the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.
“This year, I was out of it for three of them,” he admitted, regarding finishes of tied 40, T95 and T60 in The Masters, US Open and Open Championship. “I’d like to think that I can be in contention for all four next year, while maintaining my position as world number one. They’re the goals I want to set myself.”
In the meantime, his life is held perfectly in balance by a deepening relationship with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, with whom he travelled to Aspen, Colorado and Sao Paulo, Brazil in the wake of his Dubai World Tour Championship triumph, to watch her in exhibition tennis matches on the run up to Christmas.
“This is my time off; my time away (from golf),” he said. “And I need it. If I have time, I’ll travel wherever in the world Caroline is, just to see her. That’s what I want to do. That’s what makes me happy.”
Then he added pointedly: “Obviously, it’s very satisfying to win majors and important golf tournaments, but deep down, what makes me really happy is my life outside of golf and how that is at the moment. It enables me to play great golf because everything is sort of in balance.”
To my gentle suggestion that most of us have known what it’s like to be in love, he laughed almost apologetically, adding, “I know, I know” by way of acknowledging that his relationship with Caroline, while obviously special to him, is not unique.
From West Palm Beach, where he enjoys the amenities of The Bear’s Club, the 23-year-old seems happy to travel the world, on and off planes and living out of suitcases.
“That’s just the way my life has become, but I don’t plan for it to remain this way,” he said. “I’d love in a few years’ time to find a base and settle down. That would be ideal. I don’t think someone can do this for a prolonged period like 10 years, say.”
Would marriage create that situation? “For sure. But I still feel I’d do it anyway.”
Meanwhile, Jack Nicklaus, Dave Stockton and Tiger Woods have become serious influences in his tournament career, though boyhood tutor, Michael Bannon, remains his trusted coach. A finish of five successive birdies in Dubai prompted comparisons with Woods at his peak, and while not necessarily at odds with the notion, McIlroy insists that they are very different people.
“For sure,” he emphasised. “I can’t bring the intensity Tiger brings every week. He can sort of turn it on, which is impressive. It’s something that I struggle to do sometimes. Though I can generally bring it to the big events where I really want to do well, I would find it very difficult to do it every week. That’s why I’ll be cutting my schedule to a maximum of 22 or 23 tournaments next year, starting in Abu Dhabi in January.”
He went on: “Too much competitive golf simply isn’t good for you. That’s where Tiger is very smart, bringing the same level of intensity to 20 tournaments a year. It’s an emotional thing, of course. I had a great end to the summer with the PGA win and two FedEx Cup wins and the Ryder Cup, but you reach such a high that you’ve got to allow yourself get all the way back down again. Then, having got down, I had to build myself up again for a last push towards winning the European money list.”
A closeness to his father Gerry, to Nicklaus and putting coach Stockton, suggests a respect for older heads.
“Of course I have,” he confirmed. “I can still be pretty stubborn, wanting to do things my way, but they’ve obviously seen a lot more of the world than I have. It’s great just to see Jack around and have a casual lunch with him and not even talk about golf. Just talk about normal stuff; what’s going on in the world. And Dave has been a great influence on me and a great addition to my team.”
In late February 2009, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson marked McIlroy’s professional debut in the US, a few weeks after his first win in Dubai. Ranked 17th in the world, he reacted with remarkable composure to the prediction from Ernie Els that he was set to become the game’s number one.
With a self-assured smile, he remarked: “You’ve got to believe you’re the best; that no one can beat you.”
Fascinated observers sensed instantly that this 19-year-old was different. And those of us familiar with him, prepared ourselves for what we knew would be a wonderful journey.
Dermot Gilleece
at the GlobalGolfPost
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