Altvater: Toledo-born golfer Stacy Lewis new world No. 1Written by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Toledo-born golfer Stacy Lewis won the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup on March 17 at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix. This was the fourth tournament of the 2013 LPGA schedule and the first event of the year played inside the continental United States.
This was Lewis’ second win of the year in consecutive weeks. She also won the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore on March 3.
The win in Phoenix propels the 28-year-old Lewis to No. 1 on the Rolex Rankings. She jumps over Yani Tseng of Taiwan who had been the top-ranked player in the world for 109 weeks.
Lewis was the first American-born player to win LPGA Player of the Year since Beth Daniel in 1994. She is now only the second American to reach the top of the world rankings. Christie Kerr held the No. 1 ranking in 2010 for a total of six weeks.
Although Lewis moved to South Carolina and then Texas for her father’s job when she was young, the family returned to Toledo regularly to visit. Stacy also returned regularly to compete in the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, telling Toledo Free Press in August, while ranked No. 2:
“I hope to be No. 1 in the world,” Lewis said via email. “I love the competitiveness.”
Lewis encountered a setback on No. 16 during the third round on March 16. She had hit her drive into a fairway bunker bordering the right side of the hole. A poor shot from the bunker left her on the fringe, but she was able to scramble for a par.
A television viewer affected the play in a professional golf tournament when he called in to report that Lewis’ caddy had walked in the bunker on No. 16 and inadvertently tested the firmness of the sand prior to her shot.
She incurred a two-shot penalty that turned her par into a double-bogey and put her four shots behind the leader, Ai Miyazato of Japan, heading into the final round.
A penalty is a penalty and golfers pride themselves in calling their own infractions. The phenomenon that television viewers can call in and recommend penalties for players during a golf tournament from the comfort of their own couch seems ludicrous.
It began with a ridiculous penalty called on Craig Stadler in 1987 after he knelt on a towel to protect his pants and has continued with several incidents of fans calling in to report penalties over the years that were missed by the players.
Lewis has rebounded from adversity her whole life. Scoliosis caused her to wear a full body brace most of her teen years. She beat the odds to become a standout at Arkansas and excel on the LPGA.
After all of the difficulties that Lewis still deals with due to her back issues, a two-shot penalty was only a minor annoyance to her.
Miyazato still led by three shots after 12 holes on March 17, but a bogey at No. 14 cut into her lead. Karma seemed to play a hand in the tournament when she made a double-bogey at the same hole, No. 16, that had caused the problems for Lewis the day before.
Lewis took advantage and made birdie. The three-shot swing moved her into the lead and another birdie at No. 17 stretched her lead to three shots.
This is Lewis’ seventh win of her career. Her first LPGA win, although unofficial, came while she was still a student in college. She won the 2011 Kraft Nabisco a major on the LPGA Tour. Four wins last year and two wins already in 2013 have given her six wins in one year.
Even when she doesn’t win, she always seems to be in the Top 10.
Lewis is a fighter. She has had to work very hard just to be able to play golf let alone succeed at the highest level.
While Yani Tseng seemed to have lost the desire to remain No. 1, Lewis has reached the pinnacle of the women’s game.
She will be a great No. 1.