It’s become some story. The latest chapter played out Sunday afternoon on the Bay Course of the Seaview Resort, in the final round of the 54-hole ShopRiteLPGA Classic, where her biggest threats were some ominous clouds that passed through on the back nine and, well, boredom. While most of the golf world was probably more engrossed with what Tiger Woods was doing in Ohio, Lewis, the 27-year-old former Arkansas Razorback, turned a six-shot starting lead into a four-shot victory over Katherine Hull, after stretching the advantage to nine after eight holes.
When the world rankings come out Monday, it’s projected that Lewis will move up to No.3, which would make her the top American, a position that Cristie Kerr, who is 7 years older, has held since November 2009.
That was one of Lewis’ stated objectives coming into this season.
"That’s pretty awesome," said Lewis, the winner of the 2011 Kraft Nabisco major. "I didn’t expect to get it this quickly."
She’s won the LPGA’s last two stroke-play events, even if the Mobile Bay (Ala.) Classic was 5 weeks ago. The only other multiple winner in 2012 is No 1 Yani Tseng, with three. As Kerr correctly noted before the tournament, the American players are outnumbered out here. But at the moment, at least one of them has become a headliner. And when you have a story to share, that never hurts.
The person who most likely constitutes the future tied for fifth. That would be Lexi Thompson, who’s all of 17. And if she ever finds a putting stroke, who knows how high is up? But for the time being, Lewis is doing a pretty stellar job of handling the present. It’s a nice stage, and platform, to have, even if perhaps she was once an unlikely candidate.
"The better I play, the more people notice who I am and the more I can get my story out there," said Lewis, who went 65-65-71 for a 12-under-par 201. "If one more person hears my story, it makes my day. I try to embrace it and just go with it. I play golf, but if I can influence so many people and put a face to scoliosis, it’s special.
“Sometimes it’s really strange to me, seeing other people looking up to me that much. Because to me, I just did what I had to do. It’s crazy. All these kids sending me emails, they inspire me, their stories. That’s what I tell them. It may be bad right now, but you can have your own story to tell. To play golf and tell my story, it’s cool. But I don’t plan on being a Lifetime movie any day soon."
In other words, she doesn’t think of herself as the next whatever. At least not yet.
"There’s always going to be stars on the tour of the tour that aren’t playing very well right now," she reasoned. "But, you know, our tour needs that. We need the stars. And if the stars play better, more power to them …
“But it does put a little chip on my shoulder, I would have to say. Because I kind of think, even last year I got overlooked a little bit. I had a pretty good year [fourth on the money list]. So, that was definitely a little bit of motivation coming in."
Then does this put her on that level?
"I don’t know if I am [a star]," Lewis said, smiling. "But I don’t really feel like one."
She couldn’t have timed it any better. Next week is the LPGA Championship, and in early July the U.S. Open. Lewis has made herself a sought-after commodity. Of course it’s a nice dilemma to have.
"I know it’s going to be busy," she acknowledged. "The busier I get, it means I’m doing something right. So I welcome it. The hard part is saying no to people … It’s all a learning process."
There’s no telling where the ride will take her. Each one has to play itself out. But regardless of where she is in 5 or 10 years, she’s won. And that can never change.
"I honestly don’t know what to say," Lewis said. "Ultimately it’s to get to No. 1. But you’ve got to kind of chip away and move yourself up there. It’s always in the back of my head. It’s just hard when Yani is so far ahead [in points] right now. It took her a long time to build that lead, so it’s going to take a long time to get closer.
“I’ll go back this week and set some more mini goals for the rest of the year. I don’t know what they’re going to be, but I know I’ve blown my goals for the year out of the water."
It was suggested that her friend Brittany Lincicome, the 2011 champion, might finally talk her into buying a boat.
"I don’t know," Lewis said. "Hopefully they won’t bother me about that for at least the next month. I love being out on the water. I like friends that have boats better than having my own." n
Contact Mike Kern at email@example.com.