J. L. Lewis is a 43-year-old journeyman who won the 84 Lumber Classic of Pennsylvania Sunday near Pittsburgh by two shots when he blazed to a 62 on the final 18 holes. It was the lowest round shot by a winner in the last round of a PGA Tour event this year.
J. L. Lewis is proof positive of . . . exactly what?
That life at golf's highest level begins at the age of 40 these days? Lewis is the ninth player in his 40s to post a win on the PGA Tour this year. Clearly this is a trend many people are at a loss to explain.
'Training, experience,' Lewis said late Sunday. 'It's controlling your nerves, basically. I think the older players have done more of it.'
Even so, Lewis is the lone outsider in the group of 40-something winners that includes Vijay Singh, Peter Jacobsen, Kirk Triplett, Freddie Couples, Bob Tway, Craig Stadler and Scott Hoch. Lewis didn't even get his tour card until he was old enough to run for President of the United States.
So, he said, 'This is like the prime of my career.'
Last week at the John Deere Classic, the event that marked Lewis' only previous tour victory in 1999 after a prolonged and memorable playoff with Mike Brisky, Lewis putted poorly in the final round and finished second. When he got over the disappointment, he made a note of how easily the winner, Singh, made it look in capturing that tournament by four shots.
'Nobody put any heat on him,' Lewis said of Singh. 'But he didn't put any heat on himself.'
'I try to learn and I try to grow,' Lewis said. 'My ultimate goal is to become a better player.'
The Golf Gods smile on that kind of humility. Tiger Woods, a man who understands what the Golf Gods can taketh and giveth away , repeatedly talks about having the same goal. The problem Woods faces alone these days is trying to improve upon a 2000 season in which he, among other things, won the U.S. Open by 15 shots and the Britsih Open by eight.
Meanwhile the countdown begins for J. L. Lewis and what will now be the early preparations for his first pilgrimage to Augusta National as a contestant.
J.L. Lewis is a former all-state basketball player who has worked as a club pro and spent much of his life kicking around Texas and Kansas trying to keep the ball under the wind. In 1997 his wife, Dawn, caddied for him on the Nationwide Tour.
J. L. Lewis was not to the manor born when it comes to a golf pedigree. But he appreciates, more than most, what he has just achieved and what's still in front of him.
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