Pro Hogs:

New mom Lewis has company on tour

By: Grant Hall, Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Published: Thursday, June 27, 2019
Stacy Lewis holds her baby, Chesnee, Monday June 24, 2019, during the qualifier tournament for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Stacy Lewis holds her baby, Chesnee, Monday June 24, 2019, during the qualifier tournament for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

ROGERS — When Stacy Lewis brought her 8-month-old daughter Chesnee to Pinnacle Country Club on Monday, all other activity became secondary.

No disrespect to the Monday qualifiers for this weekend’s Northwest Arkansas Championship, but Chesnee stole the show.

For 30 minutes behind the ninth green, she smiled sweetly at admirers without making a peep.

Chesnee already has had play dates with AJ Piller, the 14-month-old son of LPGA Tour golfer Gerina Piller, and Lucy Rende, the 13-month-old daughter of LPGA player Brooke Pancake.

For Lewis, playing as a new mom on the LPGA Tour has presented its challenges, but the former world No. 1 player and University of Arkansas star has other moms on the tour with which she can share the experience.

“Gerina and I talk about motherhood all the time and compare notes,” Lewis said. “At the end of each day, you look back and can’t believe all the things you’ve done. But they have to get done, so you do them.”

These moms also spend many hours practicing and competing.

Pancake participated in Monday’s qualifying tournament but did not make the cut to get into this week’s tournament.

“Stacy and Gerina have given me a guidebook on how to do this,” Pancake said. “I had unrealistic ideas about managing a schedule.”

Lewis, sixth among active LPGA players with more than $12.6 million in career earnings, had not finished lower than 21st on the tour money list since 2010 until dropping to 99th last year after going on maternity leave in July shortly after the Northwest Arkansas event. Chesnee was born Oct. 25.

“Even since last year, life has changed,” Lewis said. “We were doing a gender reveal party about this time last year, and now we have an 8-month-old girl. So life has changed. Life is really busy.

“She’s traveled with me, though, to every event I’ve played so far this year, so she’s been to Hawaii, California, Arizona, Minneapolis. Everywhere we’ve been, she’s been.”

While attending the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship at the Blessings last month, Lewis confided that returning to golf had been harder than she anticipated.

“Your body feels different,” she said.

For 25 weeks beginning in 2013, Lewis had been No. 1 in the women’s rankings. Brandel Chamblee of the Golf Channel said Lewis had the best golf swing in the world, man or woman.

In 2014, Lewis swept the LPGA’s three most prestigious honors: Rolex Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy for lowest stroke average and the money list title. Her 12 career wins include two majors.

“I still love to play golf,” Lewis said. “You’re just tired all the time, not getting sleep. Here lately, Chesnee has been waking up at 4 or 5 a.m. every day.”

Returning Chesnee’s loving gaze Monday, Stacy said to her daughter: “If you would only sleep one more hour that would be wonderful.”

Pancake said she was thankful her toddler was on a normal sleep schedule now.

“Lucy now sleeps through the night, so I get seven to eight hours of sleep. I’m blessed,” she said. “We have day care at every tour site, and the tour is concerned about our health. But you really have to learn time efficiency. If I have a late tee time, there’s no time to practice after the round. You hope you’ve thought to plan your own dinner, and after that you can maybe decompress a little.”

LPGA Tour veteran Juli Inkster, 59, juggled a Hall of Fame career around having two daughters in the 1990s. But after Piller shot 2-under-par in the first round of the recent U.S. Women’s Open, Inkster reminded everyone: “It’s not easy to sit out a year while traveling with a new baby.”

In 2018, Piller, 34, and Pancake, 29, made no money on tour. Lewis, 34, managed to earn $116,000 in a little more than half a season.

“I think it’s slowly coming back,” Lewis said. “You know, it’s been a lot harder getting my body back in shape than I thought it was going to be. You normally, if you have an injury or you take some time off from golf, golf seems to come back pretty naturally and pretty quick, but this has been a little tougher. The muscles, everything got moved around there for a while in different positions, so that part of it has been a lot harder.”

This year, Brittany Lincicome and Sarah Jane Smith are just a couple of players on tour expecting babies.

“There’s about to be a baby boom on tour,” Pancake joked.

Arkansas women’s golf Coach Shauna Taylor, also a mother, could offer plenty of advice to the new mothers.

“You create a new normal when you have a child,” Taylor said. “You have to be really efficient with your time. It takes time.”

On Monday night, Lewis took time for a question-and-answer session with AJGA Tour players at a dinner for her junior tournament at the Blessings.

Tuesday, Lewis took recent UA golfers Kaylee Benton and Dylan Kim under her wing in a practice round at Pinnacle Country Club. Lewis handles a lot of off-the-course duties at this event.

“I’ve had a long list this week,” she said. “You do it, get through it and worry about the next day when you go to bed. But I love this week. I love being here. I just feel so comfortable and relaxed. It’s a week I look forward to.”

Having a support system of extended family and friends here, including five other former UA golfers in the field, helps, Taylor said.

“It’s like a reunion this week,” Taylor said. “It says a lot for our program.”

And Lewis also has her former coach she can go to for golf advice when she needs it.

“I’m always bugging Shauna for little tips and help with my golf swing,” Lewis said.

Benton can do the same because Taylor will caddie for her former player in the tournament this week.

Lewis, still a UA volunteer assistant in her spare time, won the inaugural Northwest Arkansas Championship in 2007 as an amateur, then won it again as a pro in 2014.

Perhaps with Chesnee in tow, she will hold two beautiful bundles in her arms at the end of the tournament Sunday.

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