Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

KLEE: At the Solheim Cup, Stacy Lewis is on a mission

By Paul Klee Published: August 12, 2013

PARKER - At some point this week in the pressure-packed Solheim Cup, Stacy Lewis will three-putt.

The dramatic, damning greens at Colorado Golf Club does that to players, even the best of them. And Lewis - in this international event - is the best of them.

She is the world's second-ranked woman in the Rolex points standings.

The next-closest American: Paula Creamer at No. 11.

Lewis wore a hard-plastic back brace for over seven years. Every three months, she saw a doctor to see if the back brace had corrected her scoliosis.

"And every three months, he would say, 'No, three more months,'" she said.

Finally, at the age of 18, she underwent a six-hour back surgery to insert a rod and five screws.

A three-putt?

Tolerable.

"Now when I'm playing golf, bad shots aren't so bad anymore."

The best story at the Solheim Cup that opens with practice rounds Tuesday and the real deal from Friday through Sunday?

It is Lewis, whose teenage triumph over scoliosis, a crooked spine, is enough to make you holler a little louder, root a little harder - and wonder how on earth she became the earth's No. 2 golfer.

"Laying on her back for a year and not knowing if she's going to play golf again - a game that she was falling in love with at the time - that made her the person she is today," said Meg Mallon, the captain of the U.S. side.

"She takes nothing for granted."

Truth is, women's golf needs a good story, a riveting narrative to summon interest in 460-yard par 5s and tiny galleries.

Technology is trying its darndest to dumb down the game. The arrival of the hybrid metal wood in the mid-90s made the long iron obsolete and cheated those who could actually hit one.

"Hybrids made that shot from 170 to 220 (yards) so much easier. That's where people separated themselves," said Mallon, a four-time major tournament champion. "Patty Sheehan could hit a 2-iron like nobody else. Now nobody even hits a 2-iron anymore."

Quick, name five players ranked in the top 25 in the world. I couldn't do it, either.

But I can tell you that Lewis, a 28-year-old who grew up near Houston, is as special in her sport as any other American woman in theirs. She was the world's No. 1 for four weeks in March.

The biggest reason she is not stealing more headlines is Inbee Park, the Korean golfer perched atop the Rolex rankings for the past 18 weeks.

The Solheim Cup is the U.S. vs. Europe, so Park is not here.

The Solheim Cup is the U.S. vs. Europe, which is enough of a reason to be there.

Lewis is here, and let me tell you: She is worth the price of admission. Her story is worth it, all by itself.

For the better part of a decade, she slept in the back brace. She attended junior high and high school in the back brace. She hid the back brace.

"I wore loose clothes. I didn't want anybody to know," Lewis told me. "Looking back, I was silly about it. But when you're an 11- or 12-year-old girl, everything you worry about is what you look like."

The only time she wasn't forced to wear the back brace? You guessed it.

"When I played golf, for those four or five hours, they finally let me take the brace off," Lewis said. "I think that's kind of why I was drawn to the golf course."

We sting athletes when they take a stand, when they shout their beliefs from a platform of privilege.

That's on us.

What bothers me is when athletes don't.

Lewis is on the other end. Once she hid her scoliosis, resented how it turned her teenage years from memorable to maddening. Now she serves as a spokeswoman.

Here, let her tell it. She can do it better than me.

"Once I was done with surgery, I didn't want anybody to know. I was done with it. I was over it. I didn't want to talk about it anymore," Lewis said.

"Then you become an athlete and you have a stage, and you have an obligation to talk about it all the time. You can go out there and inspire people. That's what I do now. I have to catch myself and remember that just playing golf every day, that can inspire people. I'm fortunate.

"It doesn't matter how good or bad I play. Just being out there doing it, people look up to me."

So what if she three-putts?

-

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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