Oakmont, Pa. – Stacy Lewis admits that she often has been overlooked as she has worked her way through the golf ranks.
Former U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Amanda Blumenherst was a three-time collegiate player of the year, including 2007 when Lewis won the NCAA Division I title. In 2008, Lewis earned medalist honors at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, but Michelle Wie garnered the headlines by also getting through and earning her card.
That’s how it’s been growing up, Lewis, 25, of The Woodlands, Texas, said with a shrug on Friday afternoon at Oakmont Country Club. Even in high school I was overshadowed by someone else; I played number 2 on my high school team. I’ve just kind of been the underdog all along, and just stayed out of the radar and surprised people a little bit.
During the first two rounds of the 65th U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont, Lewis was paired with teen sensation Alexis Thompson, 15, who recently turned professional. Again, Lewis was a bit overlooked.
But not entirely.
She earned deserved attention on Friday by firing a 1-under 70 at Oakmont – tied for low round of the weather-shortened day – and she put herself in the hunt at 3-over 145, tied for 22nd place when play was suspended, but only two behind the two clubhouse 36-hole leaders, 2007 champion Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lang.
Much of the media crowded around Thompson after her second-round 74, which appeared to all but assure her of making the cut in her second pro start, but Lewis drew a crowd, too.
The key to her day was an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. Lewis hit a draw 6-iron from 160 yards that found the hole. That helps the putting average on those tough Oakmont greens.
It was a great shot, and it even rolled right in just like a putt, said Thompson.
It was an intentional draw, but it was an accident it went in, Lewis said with a shy smile. Any ball that goes in feels like an accident out there.
Up until the eagle, Lewis, who posted a record 5-0-0 mark at the 2008 Curtis Cup Match, felt like an accident waiting to happen. It got me swinging more positively, and I hit the ball more positively coming in, Lewis said of her eagle. I had been kind of worrying about where it was going, and after that I started to relax. I told myself, make a good swing and it’s going to go where you want it to. It righted the ship a bit for me.
Lewis, who said she is enjoying the uniquely stringent challenge that Oakmont presents, is the kind of player who won’t be easy to overlook if she continues to play with confidence.
At Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, Lewis, playing her first professional event, was the 54-hole leader before tying for third. The experience will come in handy – and it has already, in fact. Her short game has been sharp, and she’s capable of grinding out a score when she makes an error.
Lewis, a semifinalist at the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur, went on to add four more birdies to offset inevitable bogeys that Oakmont tends to extract, but her most memorable hole on Friday, after the eagle, came at the par-4 eighth when she missed the green left and found her ball up against the lip of a bunker. She gouged it out to 5 feet and saved par.
I’m in a pretty good position, a few behind; that’s where you want to be, she said.
I think that experience [in ’08] helps a lot, Lewis added. It taught me the importance of staying patient. It helped me today. I was four over [after the first round] but I knew I definitely wasn’t out of this golf tournament. You have to grind for every single one of them, and you never know when you’re going to hit a shot like I did at four and it goes in.
And before you know it, you’re no longer overlooked.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.