Lewis re­turns to LPGA Tour as a mother

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Edgar Thomp­son Or­lando Sen­tinel egth­omp­son @or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

For as long as she can re­mem­ber, LPGA star Stacy Lewis’ life — and her fam­ily life — has re­volved around golf.

Grow­ing up out­side Hous­ton, Lewis learned the game from her father, Dale, and his father, Al. When Lewis won her first ma­jor cham­pi­onship at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco, Carol Lewis, her mother, broke her leg after join­ing her daugh­ter dur­ing the tra­di­tional plunge into the pond near the 18th green. Stacy Lewis even mar­ried a golf coach, say­ing, “I do,” two sum­mers ago to Ger­rold Chad­well, who coaches the Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton women’s team.

These days, though, golf is no longer the cen­ter of Lewis’ uni­verse.

When the 33-year-old kicks off her 2019 sea­son at this week’s Di­a­mond Re­sorts Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons, 2 1⁄2-mon­thold Ch­es­nee will be in charge.

“Ev­ery­thing re­volves around her now,” Lewis said. “Your day starts when she’s ready. It’s not about you or it’s not about my hus­band any­more, it’s just all about her now. It’s been good.

“I wouldn’t change it for any­thing.”

Even so, it has been a chal­lenge — “a life-changer,” Lewis said.

Ch­es­nee’s Oct. 25 ar­rival shifted her mother’s longestab­lished pri­or­i­ties, al­tered Lewis’ finely tuned physique and upset a well­worn sched­ule that once car­ried her to the top of the women’s game.

A world built on prac­tic­ing, train­ing, playing and com­pet­ing has be­come an un­pre­dictable ad­ven­ture and daily learn­ing op­por­tu­nity.

Lewis now will take the jug­gling act out on the road for the first time at this week’s Di­a­mond Re­sorts Tour­na­ment, slated to be played Thurs­day through Sun­day at Tran­quilo Golf Course at Four Sea­sons Or­lando in Lake Buena Vista.

“I’m kind of us­ing this next week more as a test run, see where my game is at, get my legs un­der me, test run for trav­el­ing with an in­fant and hav­ing her on the road with us,” Lewis said.

Lewis’ golf game needs a lot of at­ten­tion fol­low­ing a long lay­off to give birth to her first child. But as much as any­thing this week, Lewis will fo­cus on how to man­age pro­fes­sional golf with a baby in tow.

While her com­peti­tors are grind­ing on the prac­tice range, Lewis will be grilling those who run day­care for the LPGA and la­bel­ing bot­tles for them in order to keep Ch­es­nee happy.

Lewis cer­tainly is not the only mother, just the new­est one, out on Tour. A year ago, Ge­rina Piller was 5½ months preg­nant when she played in Or­lando.

Lewis guesses she will reach out to some fel­low LPGA moms once she has more spe­cific ques­tions to ask.

By the time the Tour reaches the West Coast in March, Lewis plans to have a solid grip on her sched­ule and her game. A 12-time LPGA win­ner, in­clud­ing two ma­jor ti­tles, Lewis did not re­sume a full prac­tice sched­ule un­til just a cou­ple of weeks ago.

“Just com­ing back from giv­ing birth has been a lot harder than I thought,” she said. “You lose a lot of your Stacy Lewis is returning to the LPGA Tour after hav­ing a baby late last year.

core and your back and your strength, so just try­ing to get that back first. Golfers are pretty self­ish in na­ture. It’s hard to leave her with a sit­ter or leave her with your mom for four or five hours to go prac­tice.

“But I know at the same time, I need to do it right now.”

While Lewis might have to evolve as a mom out on the LPGA Tour, self­ish never would be a word as­so­ci­ated with the pleas­ant soft-spo­ken Texan.

Lewis’ re­sponse to the home­town tragedy of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey made national head­lines, in­spired an ESPN doc­u­men­tary and be­came a way for her to chan­nel her bound­less en­ergy while she was preg­nant and away from the game.

On the week Har­vey rav­aged Hous­ton, Lewis was in Ore­gon preparing to play in the Cam­bia Port­land Clas­sic. Dis­traught and dev­as­tated by the events at home, Lewis an­nounced she would do­nate her win­nings to the re­lief ef­fort.

Lewis, in­cred­i­bly, then went out and won to snap a soul-crush­ing a 39-month drought that in­cluded 12 run­ner-up fin­ishes.

“I say that I never want to go that long be­tween wins again,” she said. “But it gives a pur­pose to all those second-place fin­ishes. It’s like I wasn’t meant to win that week. And it was held off and held off and held off, and I was meant to win that week in Port­land.

“There was a rea­son for it. There is a big­ger rea­son than just golf.”

Lewis’ act in­spired her pri­mary spon­sor, KPMG, to match the purse and raise the pledge to $390,000. Lewis’ al­tru­ism also de­liv­ered the fi­nal chap­ter for the SEC Net­work to com­plete a doc­u­men­tary on her life, “Stacy’s Gift.”

The story cel­e­brated Lewis’s abil­ity to over­come sco­l­io­sis and spinal fu­sion surgery as a child to be­come an NCAA cham­pion at the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas, an LPGA star, a U.S. Olympian and an ex­am­ple of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity.

In ad­di­tion to her do­na­tion, Lewis would help re­build homes in the area and greet fam­i­lies upon their long-awaited re­turn.

“It’s a tes­ta­ment to the ca­reer I’ve had that fi­nan­cially I was in a po­si­tion to do that,” Lewis said of her ges­ture in Port­land. “But also it’s al­ways been who I am. I love to help peo­ple and to give back.” Lewis also loves to win. Few women in golf are as a fiery and de­ter­mined be­tween the ropes. These days, though, some­thing — make that some­one — is more con­se­quen­tial than a tro­phy that awaits Lewis out­side of them.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent now,” Lewis said. world

CHRIS CARL­SON/AP

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