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Published: Wednesday, 7/9/2008

Highland Meadows is special for Lewis

It would be a cute story if Stacy Lewis saw this as a dream come true. If she could remember getting autographs from LPGA pros at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic and thinking, "Some day, that's going to be me."

Yes, it would be a cute, heart-warming story. But we'd be making most of it up.

Oh, Lewis remembers being at Highland Meadows Golf Club when she was 8, 9, 10 years old. And she recalls lining up for autographs like all the little girls.

Stacy Lewis, a native Toledoan who left the area when she was 2 but who returned to visit often during the Farr, tries the driver during the Aquafina Junior Pro-Am on Monday. Stacy Lewis, a native Toledoan who left the area when she was 2 but who returned to visit often during the Farr, tries the driver during the Aquafina Junior Pro-Am on Monday.
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"But I didn't have any aspirations of playing professionally," she said yesterday. "It wasn't like, 'I'm going to play on the LPGA Tour,' or anything like that. I wasn't even that serious about golf at the time."

She is now. Lewis, a native Toledoan, is one of the biggest stories in the women's game, despite this week's Farr Classic being just her third tournament since turning pro.

Two weeks ago, in her debut, the diminutive Lewis climbed to the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard after 54 holes and settled for a tie for third place and a $162,487 payday.

It sure didn't take long to put that double major in finance and accounting from the University of Arkansas to good use.

Lewis moved with her family from Toledo to South Carolina at the age of 2, but "we used to come back a lot in the summers to visit family and we'd always come the week of this tournament so we would be able to watch. I remember when I was younger getting autographs from all of the players and things like that. Plus, it's a special place for me just because of it being my first [LPGA] tournament that I played."

That was in 2006, right about when this pro golf thing started to take on more than a dream-like form. Missing the cut at the Farr that year surely didn't deter her. She returned in '07, shortly after winning the NCAA individual championship at Arkansas, and played all four rounds, finishing at 3-over 287.

"When I played here the first time I was so nervous I couldn't really play golf," Lewis said. "But it got that out of me. The exposure I had, plus college and amateur tournaments, helped me become comfortable, helped me prepare for a situation like the Open and for being in the final group."

Yes, everything has changed. In '06, she was almost too nervous to swing a club. In '08, she has to be considered one of the pretournament favorites.

When Stacy was 11, the Lewis family moved from South Carolina to a place in Texas called The Woodlands, where the four main activities are eating golf, drinking golf, sleeping golf and playing golf.

Stacy's goal was to play college golf, and after back surgery to correct scoliosis her career took off at Arkansas. Now she's one of the great hopes for an LPGA Tour that continues to get a much-needed influx of young American talent.

After taking a one-shot lead into the final round, Lewis didn't finish off the Women's Open as she would have liked, carding a 78. Last weekend, after opening 69-69, she closed the NW Arkansas Championship with a final-round 75.

"The last day at the Open I didn't feel like I played that poorly, but I couldn't get the ball in the hole," she said. "I had a lot of putts go along the edge. But I think I learned that my game is ready and it stood up under pressure. I just didn't get the right bounces or get any putts to fall.

"Last week was just insane. It was almost harder than the Open. There was so much media and so many people that wanted my attention that I couldn't focus on golf like I would have wanted. I guess it's good to have more attention than less. But I probably put too much pressure on myself and didn't play well because of it. That's a lesson. Don't take on so much pressure and just let things happen instead."

Despite that, for all the obvious reasons, Lewis admits wanting very much to play well in the Farr Classic.

"It's like coming home," she said. "I think my game is ready and I think I can win. I'm just going to go and play golf and I'm going to try and win this golf tournament."

That would make hers an autograph well worth having for some little girl, with or without a dream.



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