Stacy Lewis Wins LPGA Player of the Year
by Iver Maple on November 28, 2012
Mizuno Brand Ambassador Stacy Lewis triumphantly accepted the Rolex Player of the Year award, becoming the first U.S.-born player to do so in nearly two decades. LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Beth Daniel, the last American winner in 1994, was on-hand at the awards ceremony to assist in presenting her the award.
"I just think back to 10 years ago when I remember sitting in a doctor's office and him telling me that I was going to have to have back surgery," Lewis said. "That was the time that, I mean, I thought I would never play golf again. Now 10 years later I'm here winning Player of the Year, that's crazy. That's not normal, you know? People that normally win Player of the Year are pretty talented and have kind of played well all along and I've just kind of slowly worked my way up and I think it's most satisfying, everything I've overcome."
Lewis led the Tour with four victories and 16 top-10 finishes this season. In June, following victories at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic and the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Lewis moved to No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings and became the top-ranked American in the world. The following week, she moved to No. 2 in the world - the position she currently holds - following a runner-up finish at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
In September, Lewis completed the "Alabama Slam," winning the Navistar LPGA Classic to strengthen her lead in the Player of the Year race, though it was anything but a runaway. Instead it became a two-player race as the season turned to fall thanks to the consistent play of Inbee Park, who recorded 10 consecutive top-10 finishes including two victories. Lewis' win at the Mizuno Classic in Japan gave her a 58 point lead in the Player of the Year race with two events remaining and her tie for fourth at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational clinched the trophy.
"It's unbelievable, especially the way I played the last few months with all the pressure," Lewis said. "I've been thinking about it every day and all the time, and it's just crazy to me just how far I've come over the last few years. To be the best player on this Tour, I don't even know what to say."
From the age of 11, Lewis wore a back brace 18 hours per day for 7-1/2 years to correct curvature in her spine from scoliosis, removing the brace only to play golf. She had back surgery to insert a titanium rod and five screws during her senior year of high school and redshirted for one season before joining the University of Arkansas women's golf team. As a member of the University of Arkansas women's golf team, Lewis won 12 collegiate events and was a four-time All-American. She was the 2005 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Freshman of the Year, the 2007 NCAA Division I National Champion and the 2008 SEC Championship Individual Medalist and Player of the Year.
Lewis was the medalist at the 2008 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament and joined the Tour as a rookie in 2009. In 2011, she became a Rolex First-Time Winner and major champion at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she defeated defending champion Yani Tseng by three shots and crossed the $1 million mark in career earnings. Nineteen months later, she crossed the $4 million mark in earnings with her victory at the Mizuno Classic.
"Coming into the year, I just wanted to hopefully win and be the top American in the Rolex Rankings and I think in May I accomplished both of those goals," Lewis said. "The middle of the year is when Player of the Year really kind of came on my mind and I thought that it was something that was possible and it was attainable."
It certainly was. Congratulations Stacy!