Stacy Lewis: World No. 1 Transformer

With Stacy Lewis’ 3-shot win over Ai Miyazato at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, she moves into the position of the World No. 1 as soon as the numbers are recalculated Monday morning.

For Stacy, it was a welcome and an early surprise:

It’s crazy.  That was my goal kind of since the middle of last year and I really didn’t think it would be possible this quick.  We’ve only played four tournaments this year and it’s just crazy. 

We still have so many more events this year.  We have majors coming up, Solheim Cup, and so much more to play for and I’m just excited about the rest of the year more than anything.  I’m having a blast on the golf course, and to be No. 1 in the world, it’s what everybody out here on Tour is working for and to be that person is, I mean, I really don’t even know what to say.

This is the way of transformation. You work for something for what seems like forever, and then suddenly, you’ve achieved it. In this case transformed from a damn good, up-and-coming LPGA star, to the No. 1 player in the world.

And in fact, that transformation can occur before the end game is achieved. One of the ways that you accelerate to your “jumping off” transformation platform is by stepping into the role first, even though you haven’t achieved it.

Here’s the concept in real terms, quoted from my forthcoming book, Going For It! A Spiritual Adventure on the Champions Tour. At the time I began this adventure, I was a 7-handicap amateur with no significant tournament experience:

So when I set out in the early weeks of the quest, everything shifted for me when I stopped playing practice rounds to get to the Champions Tour and instead “became” a Champions Tour player playing practice rounds.

I got three Titleist visors. I got the latest TaylorMade driver and fairway woods. I called Wilson to get a big red and white “staff” bag with my name on it. I added a lob wedge to my bag and dropped the 1-iron out. I stopped playing in jeans. I got some nice golf shirts and sweater vests, the standard Tour player uniform. I got a couple of pairs of the good FootJoy shoes. All professional players require a rain suit to play in the rain. Rain or shine, I always had mine in my bag.

So when I arrived in the parking lot, I looked the part. I normally played as a single and joined whatever group I could hook up with. When I met my playing partners on the first tee they would take one look at me and instinctively begin to reduce my expectations for their rounds by explaining that they didn’t have a chance to hit any balls on the range, that they had just had a lesson, that they hadn’t played in (fill in the blanks): three days, three weeks or three months. Anything to explain away the skills gap that they could see would be revealed out on the course.

And when I stood over a shot, they knew it was going to be a good one.

I put together all of these things to remind me of who I was…even if I wasn’t just yet. When I went through my pre-shot routine, I did it with the sort of understated swagger you see in all Tour pros. When I got ready to hit a little chip shot around the greens, I did it with an enhanced display of delicacy and panache. And when it was time to putt, I putted like I expected them all to go in.

By all my outward appearance, in all my mannerisms, and in more and more of my shots, I completely looked the part of who I claimed to be—even if I wasn’t just yet.

My handicap dropped from a seven to a two in just four months. For you non-golfers, in the heady air of single-digit handicaps, this is an extraordinary accomplishment. I knew that a “two” still wasn’t good enough, but it was all the proof I needed to see that my principles were working and that I was now at least good enough to be competitive out on Tour while the process continued.

This idea sustained me for nine years. I never realized my dream of making it to the Champions Tour, but in my 124 attempts at Monday qualifying, I was certainly lurking all around it. And after not too many of those outings, the only thing I knew for sure was that I could do it. And that was true right up to the watershed event that convinced me that I could no longer be committed to the goal: I was months away from my 60th birthday and playing too poorly to attempt my 9th Q-School.

Some would say that on its own terms, the theory didn’t work and that’s the bottom line. But it did give me the courage to try, instilled commitment to keep trying and ultimately led me to my next career as a writer, something one of my former qualifying buddies said I should have been doing all along. (It was intended as a compliment after he read an early draft of the manuscript.) What can I say? I was a jock in high school; who wants to be a writer? Ewww.

And now comes Stacy Lewis, a young teenager stricken with scoliosis who went on to become a World No.1 Transformer. That wasn’t supposed to happen either. But it did:

Yeah, it’s almost 10 years ago I was having surgery, I was going into surgery to put a rod and five screws in my back.  That was just 10 years ago.  That’s not normal, that’s not supposed to happen.  I mean, I’m not — I’m really not supposed to be here.  People with metal in their back, how do you play golf? I don’t know, I don’t know how, I don’t know why I’m here.

I know that there’s a reason and I know that everything happens for a reason.  Every setback you have along the way, everything good that happens, it all happens for a reason.  I don’t know, I couldn’t have dreamed the kid growing up wearing a back brace 18 hours a day that is the No. 1 player in the world.  I don’t know, I don’t know what to say.

Well, I do. Congratulations Stacy Lewis for accomplishing your dream and by doing so, inspiring untold numbers of other people to try for theirs.

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