Why Stacy’s an inspiration

Stacy Lewis, who on Sunday broke Asia’s recent domination of the women’s golf majors by winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open, will come as an inspiration to scoliosis sufferers.

The Ohio-born, Texas reared 28-year-old was diagnosed with such severe scioliosis when she was 11 years old that she was forced to wear a back brace for 18 hours a day until her graduation from high school, at which stage which she underwent surgery to correct the curvature of her spine.

But it didn’t stop her getting involved in golf and was playing the game at such a high level when she left school that she was able to earn a golfing scholarship to the University of Arkansas.

Her back surgery in her freshman year kept her on the sidelines, but gritty Lewis came back from it in the following year and went on to build a highly successful career as a college amateur, picking up a string of NCAA titles and honours on her way to winning an historic five-out-of-five games for the USA in the 2008 Curtis Cup against Great Britain and Ireland on the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland where, somewhat ironically, she also won her second major and her first British Open on Sunday.

The US’s 13-7 win was their sixth consecutive Curtis Cup victory over GB and Ire.

Lewis graduated from Arkansas in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting and then turned professional.

In September of that year she played in the final stage of qualifying at the LPGA Tour school and overshadowed the highly-publicized Michelle Wie qualifying bid by winning the five-round event, finishing five shots clear of the field and six in front of Wie, who ended up in seventh place.

The fair-haired American’s first professional victory was in nothing less than in the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, one of the women’s four majors in that year.

In this event she led the field for the first two rounds, and then held off the then world number one and defending champion Yani Tseng to claim the title by three strokes.

Lewis made her Solheim Cup debut in the same year, qualifying second for the US team behind Cristie Kerr.

In the 2012 season Lewis won four tournaments and became the first American player to win the LPGA Player of the Year award since Beth Daniel in 1994.

On March 17, 2013, she briefly became the world’s top player when she unseated long-standing Tseng on top of Rolex Women’s World Rankings list after her victory in the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Arizona.

With her second major victory in the Women’s British Open at St Andrews last week, where she closed with two magnificent birdies to win by two shots with an eight-under score of 280, Lewis has now taken her number of tournament wins to nine, eight of them on the LPGA Tour and one of them in Japan.

But perhaps nothing more than she has done out on the golf courses of the world was more impressive than the brilliant five-iron she hit to the green of St Andrew’s frightening 17th ‘Road Hole’, one of the game’s toughest par fours in any form of golf. Never more so than when the pressure is on in a tense, anyone-can-win final round.

It starts with a blind tee shot over the corner of the Old Course Hotel and Lewis, showing not a flicker of nervousness, crushed her drive into the very heart of the fairway from where she perfectly drilled a five-iron approach that hit the sloping ground in front of the green in the perfect place and fed into position for the most makable birdie putt anyone had seen all day.

And this on a day when most of her rivals-in-chief where finding the bunker on the left of the green or, worst still, sending their ball rolling over the green onto the infamous tarmac road running alongside the left side of the green

“That (shot) might be one of the best of my career,” Lewis said, in describing the shot afterwards.

Her heroics at 17 took her into first place at seven-under for, at about the same time she was nailing her birdie there, No Yeon Choi, the final round leader before that moment, was slipping back into second place, a shot behind, with a second consecutive bogey.

And that wasn’t all.

Cool as a cucumber, never-say-die Lewis then nailed a second consecutive birdie in front of the cheering crowd at 18 to put herself out of sight to a chasing pack that would mostly run aground at the Road Hole.

Choi didn’t roll into the road in the way that Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and American Morgan Pressel did, but she did end up on the straggly grass on the verge in front of the road with little chance of making the birdie she so desperately needed to keep her hopes alive.

Sometimes adversity – and overcoming adversity – early in life can be a blessing.

This certainly seems to have had a role to play in helping Stacy Lewis break the recent domination of the women’s majors by In Bee Park and her fellow Korean invaders on Sunday when she became the first American to win a major since her own Kraft Nabisco triumph two years ago.

Park, the current world number one, had already won the season’s first three women’s majors when she teed off at St Andrews and was seeking the still unrealized classic golf grand slam of four consecutive majors.

Nevertheless her effort was highly praised by Lewis, who told the media after her win: “I don’t know if you’ll ever see three in a row again. That’s pretty incredible.”