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LPGA Today

Stacy Lewis - Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

November 24, 2012

by William Szczepanek

The LPGA was dominated by USA players from 1953 through 1994 with USA players winning 42 consecutive Vare Trophies for lowest scoring average. From its inception in 1966 through 1994 USA players won 28 of 29 Rolex Player of the Year Awards with the only exception being Ayako Okamoto in 1987.

Since then, 1994,  until now the USA has not won a single Rolex Player of the Year Award or Vare Award.  Now, with my study nearly finished, Stacy Lewis rises to the occasion and messes up my research. Well, maybe not. Congratulations goes to Stacy Lewis for doing what no other USA golfer has been able to accomplish in nearly two decades, since Beth Daniel accomplished the feat in 1994. She has won the Rolex Player of the Year Award.

As most people who follow the LPGA know, Stacy Lewis suffered from scoliosis which was diagnosed when she was 11 years old. She wore a back brace every day until she underwent spinal fusion surgery seven years later when a single rod and five screws were inserted in her spine. She was still recovering during her first collegiate golf season.  While she is thankful for the opportunity her doctor provided her, it may be that dealing with this adversity is what has strengthened her resolve. If it weren't for her back problem it is possible she would never have been as successful at golf, for it is in overcoming adversity that we all get stronger.

The Asian Invasion: What a Hero Can Do?

Today, the LPGA is dominated by Asian golfers and is truly an international sport. I have spent a good deal of time analyzing this phenomenon in an attempt to determine what in society influences people to succeed.

For many Asians, particularly South Koreans, Se Ri Pak provided the inspiration to take up golf. She was proof to a nation that success is possible with hard work. Hard work is something that is instilled in South Koreans by their parents and teachers at a young age. Respect for older people and a willingness to work together has pushed many of these people to a level of excellence that is astonishing to today's Americans.

When I ask American kids who their heroes are I get a puzzled look in return. Heroes are passé in the USA. They were prevalent in the 1950s, with true heroes like Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in WWII and later a movie star, who was only 5' 5" tall; or fictional heroes like John Wayne, 6' 4", whose movie roles provided an example to kids and adults of how important it was to do the right thing. These people encouraged kids to excel and USA kids excelled like no others back then. It was at this time that Americans acted much like Koreans do today.

Stacy Lewis - Hero?

Is Stacy Lewis a hero? I think so and I think that many young girls looking at golf, or any other career for that matter, can learn from her example. Stacy Lewis is an extraordinary athlete trapped in an ordinary body.  Her mental toughness is the key to her success, as is the case with many of the Asian golfers who do amazing things in petite bodies (a kind of adversity).

Because of her setbacks Stacy has learned to try harder, to never give up. After a bad shot we have seen her throw clubs. Golf analysts have indicated that not staying calm can cause her to lose focus. I see the opposite with her. These control issues happen between holes, not during the course of play. When Stacy gets mad she is telling herself to focus harder. It's a mental game. She is strong and confident in her demeanor. She doesn't rant or whine when she misses a putt. She doesn't swear, like so many other LPGA stars I have heard. At least I haven't heard her do so... yet. Stacy Lewis is an great example for all young girls and yes, even boys. Work hard. Never give up. Things will get better. She knows. She's been there.

Heroine material?  For sure.

Now, Mike Whan needs to continue his great work and get the LPGA watched by many more young, impressionable minds. It may even be good if American kids can look up to some of the players from other countries. We just need more heroes.




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