Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Lewis, Arkansas stick by each other
Stacy Lewis calls the hogs with fans as she approaches the 17th green Friday afternoon during the first round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.
ROGERS -- Parodying the fast-talking Top 40 DJs of his era, the late comedian George Carlin would babble, "Here's the hit that's No. 1 and climbing higher all the time!"
Stacy Lewis seems to be a living parody of Carlin's old routine because this LPGA season she ranks No. 1 in a world that is catching up to Arkansas, where Lewis has long rated No. 1 and seems to be climbing higher all the time.
That climb accelerates every year when the tour comes to Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers for the LPGA Wal-Mart Northwest Arkansas Championship, which started Friday.
Even though Lewis was born in Ohio and raised in Texas, Lewis never ceases to show the world she is an Arkansas Razorback.
Arkansans never forget that Lewis, 29, won the 2007 NCAA women's championship as a Razorback. They avidly follow her professional career, which rivals the pro sports careers of any University of Arkansas alumni, even NFL Hall of Famers Lance Alworth and Dan Hampton, five-time NBA All-Star Sidney Moncrief and PGA and British Open champion John Daly.
At Pinnacle, Lewis is followed by a Hog-calling gallery unlike anywhere for anyone in women's golf.
"I don't think there is any other place on tour that supports someone individually like this tournament supports me," Lewis said Wednesday at her annual Northwest Arkansas Championship news conference. "There is no one else that has it. The players joke they always know where I am on the golf course judging by all the Hog calls.
"It's definitely an honor. It's such a cool thing."
It's so cool that her opposition actually enjoys it, including the traditionally loud ovation for Lewis on the 17th hole.
"It's not a distraction for sure," said Inbee Park, the reigning Northwest Arkansas Championship champion who is ranked No. 2 in the world. "I know she went to college around here, and it's always good to have a good attraction of fans around.
"No. 17 on this golf course is great. Every year we come it gets bigger and bigger."
Sometimes, Lewis admits, the Northwest Arkansas Championship week can seem too big.
The feeling passes, she says, going to eat at Herman's and Doe's in Fayetteville. She relishes this week's time with Shauna Estes-Taylor, Arkansas' head coach who recruited Lewis when she was an assistant to former Razorbacks coach Kelley Hester. They persisted even as others backed off because of Lewis' scoliosis, which eventually required major surgery after she signed with Arkansas.
Arkansas stuck by Lewis, and Lewis will never forget it.
"Everything has been such a blessing," Lewis said. "I don't think it would have happened if I had gone to school anywhere else. They took a chance on me. I owe a lot to this place, this university."
The honor is the UA's. This week Lewis was announced among nine former Razorbacks greats who will be inducted Sept. 5 into the UA Sports Hall of Honor.
"It's a huge honor," Lewis said. "It's cool to come back and be around people that helped make it possible."
Sports on 06/28/2014