MOBILE, Ala. – Stacy Lewis tees it up at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic coming off her best finish as an LPGA pro.
Playing beside Lorena Ochoa in Ochoa’s farewell appearance before retirement, Lewis gave herself a chance to win the Tres Marias Championship in Mexico two weeks ago. With a legion of Ochoa fans chanting and cheering Ochoa all day long, Lewis put together a fabulous final round to finish second. Her birdie at the final hole put pressure on Ai Miyazato, who had to hole a 10-footer to win in the day’s final pairing.
Lewis, 25, a second year pro from Texas, won the NCAA Championship as an individual in 2007 while at the University of Arkansas, finished third at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur and won medalist honors at the LPGA Qualifying Tournament later the same year.
Before the first round of the Bell Micro, she talked about her game in a Quick Round:
You must have felt like you didn’t want to get in the way playing with Lorena Ochoa in the final round of her farewell appearance, and yet you nearly won that Sunday in Mexico. What was that like?
I’ve never seen that many people cheering for one person, but Lorena was so gracious, waving to everyone.
With so much energy and emotion aimed at Lorena, how did you manage to play so well?
I wasn’t that nervous. I knew people weren’t really there to see me. I think that helped in a way. Lorena’s so gracious anyway, she relaxed me. Toward the end, people started cheering for me. You couldn’t help but smile watching Lorena and the crowds and that relaxed me.
At Lorena’s last hole, you made birdie, what was that like?
Going up 18, I was going to hang back and wave and let her go ahead, but she turned around and waited for me to walk up with her. That’s just the kind of person she is. She told me, “Great job, great playing.”
What did you take away from nearly winning?
The confidence of being comfortable in that situation, being comfortable playing for the lead, playing to win. It was definitely a huge confidence builder. I was surprised how confident I was in that situation. I don’t know what it was.
Winning the NCAA Championship, finishing third at the U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur, winning Q-School, how much did that ramp up expectations before your rookie year?
The Open finish helped Q-School, from there the expectations got high, and when I didn’t play well my rookie year, it was worse than it should have been. I didn’t handle it very well, when I didn’t really have that bad of a year. At the end of the year, I was frustrated playing in Asia, and some veterans told me I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, that I had a very good year.
You finished 47th on the money list as a rookie. What were you expecting?
I just expected to be in contention more, to give myself more opportunities. I only had two top 10s all year.
How did last year affect your approach to this year?
I worked so hard to mentally prepare myself not to be so hard on myself, and just to enjoy it more.
What’s the most important shot you ever hit?
When I won (the NCAAs in 2007), I hit a chip shot at the final hole. It was an impossible chip shot, and I hit it to about 10 feet and got up and down for par at LPGA International in Daytona Beach. It was from a lie on a down slope to a down slope on the green.
Why was it the most important shot you ever hit?
That shot told me that maybe I could do this for a living, the way I played that last day put a little thought in my head that maybe I could turn pro.
What shot would you most like to hit over again?
At the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open (in 2008), at the second hole, a par 5. I hit a wedge shot that went left of the green. From there, I chipped off the green, but it was the wedge shot I’d like over. It was just a horrible wedge shot. I ended up making double from the middle of the fairway. It just got the day started off badly. It killed all the momentum.