The following is my mini profile of golfer Stacy Lewis, a former Razorback All-American who this weekend was ranked No. 1 in the world. Beneath, I’ve attached some previously unpublished questions and answers in which she discusses more of her Arkansas connection:
Before daring to imagine a pro career, golfer Stacy Lewis simply focused on getting through her first year at the University of Arkansas. She’d already battled scoliosis through her teen years in Texas. In public, she wore a back brace under her clothes.
But the toughest test came with intense pain following a summer 2003 surgery to straighten her spine. Doctors had to deflate a lung and move organs to fit a steel rod in her back. Confined to bed for eight weeks, even getting up for the bathroom was a major ordeal for Lewis.
In the end, all that misery bestowed a supercharged gratitude and work ethic toward the game. Lewis became better.
Much, much better.
As in 12-tournament-wins-in-college and 2007-NCAA-champion better.
Those Razorback days have helped catapult her to great success in the professional world. The Golf Writers Association of America named Lewis its 2012 Player of the Year. On March 8, the 28-year-old gets her latest honor: induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
“It is a huge honor,” Lewis wrote in an e-mail. “I never planned on playing golf past college so this type of award is a surprise and a bonus.”
[The above piece originally published in Arkansas Life magazine.]
Original Q & A
Q: You’ll be one of the youngest inductees ever to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
What went through your mind after you were notified you would be inducted?
Is this something you imagined happening this early when you were a freshman at the UA?
A: I was surprised and excited about this award. It is a huge honor to be recognized by the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. When I began my collegiate career, I never planned on playing golf past college so this type of award is a surprise and a bonus.
Q: Outside of track, very few – if any – Razorback student-athletes got All-American honors all four years. With such an overall successful career, what do you consider your most satisfying moment playing golf in college? Why?
A: My most satisfying moment was winning the NCAAs my junior year. It was coach Kelly Hester’s last tournament with me and I was excited to have her be an instrumental part of it.
Q: Northwest Arkansas is known for its trees, mountains, lakes and rivers – yet you spent so much your time there on manicured grass. Were you ever able to explore the surrounding Ozark outdoors? If so, what was the place/places you most enjoyed visiting?
A: Unfortunately, my schedule has not allowed me to see as much of the Ozarks as I would like. I have been able to spend some time at some lakes and it is great.
Q: You’re very busy these days. On average, how often are you able to make it back to NWA every year?
A: I do not get back as much as I would like. I have so many great friends there that I do love it when I am able. I always look forward to the Walmart NW Arkansas LPGA event as an excuse to be there.
Q: In the last few years, have you communicated much with the Razorback female golfers who came after you left? What specific advice do you give them?
Have you given junior Emily Tubert any advice?
A: Since I left school, I have been a volunteer assistant coach with the team and keep in touch with Coach Shauna Estes-Taylor and the team. I have been able to answer some questions from the team about course management and handling some specific situations on the golf course. Emily Tubert is a great girl and has asked some of the same questions.
Q: You advocate for awareness and education of scoliosis. I imagine that your story of struggle has helped inspire many children and teens who are currently struggling with the condition.
How often do you hear from someone who tells you that your story inspired him/her to persevere?
What does it mean to you to hear this kind of testimony?
A: I get letters and emails constantly and I try to give words of encouragement. It helps to know someone who has gone through the same thing and can sympathize or give insight. It means a lot to me to help kids persevere.
Q: Since your freshman year at the UA, have you done any scoliosis-related outreach in Arkansas? If so, where and how exactly did you help?
A: Not necessarily specific to Arkansas, but I sure do communicate with folks from Arkansas who are dealing with scoliosis.
Sports Illustrated covered Lewis’ March 8th induction and this feature article resulted. My favorite part:
“Lewis was the star of Friday’s show, not least because she was only five days removed from a rousing first victory of the LPGA season, in Singapore. She looked glamorous in heels and a colorful minidress. After getting Lewis’s autograph, one middle-aged gent said to a friend, ‘You see those thigh muscles? She’s definitely an ath-o-lete.'”