By Mark Lamport-Stokes–Sat Apr 2, 2011
RANCHO MIRAGE, California, April 1 (Reuters) – Stacy Lewis has already overcome more than her fair share of obstacles in professional golf, though a recent trip to Africa made her aware she is luckier than most with her lot in life.
In December, Lewis visited Rwanda with fellow American and former player Betsy King’s Golf Fore Africa charity and the plight of young children in that country left her with a lasting impression.
“I saw things there I never thought I’d ever see in my life,” Lewis told reporters after taking a three-shot lead in the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Friday.
“It was such a shock to me that people live the way that they do (there), but they are so happy and so grateful. It just makes me thankful for everything that I have.”
Lewis met a young girl in Rwanda who she sponsors through King’s charity and she firmly believes giving back to society in this way can make her golfing career more meaningful.
“It (that December trip) gave me a renewed purpose of what I’m doing out here,” said the 26-year-old, who was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 11.
“And the better I play golf, the more I can help other people, the more I can inspire people.”
Asked what had made the most significant impression on her in Rwanda, Lewis replied: “Driving alongside the road you see kids with these huge buckets of water bigger than them.
“They had to walk probably miles to the wells to get water. That picture doesn’t really go out of your head, especially when you go to turn a faucet on or something.”
Lewis has had to face her own personal struggle, including the nightmare prospect on her high school graduation that her burgeoning golfing career might be over.
She had to wear a brace for more than seven years after being diagnosed with scoliosis before having surgery to insert a rod and five screws into her back.
“When I found out that I had to have surgery, I thought I was done playing golf forever,” she recalled. “The doctor found out that I played golf and we did the surgery a little different way so I had more flexibility.
“I just wanted to play golf. I just wanted to qualify for my team. I didn’t think I’d win tournaments. I didn’t think about any of that. I just wanted to get back out there and play again.”
Lewis, an outstanding amateur and a former NCAA champion at Arkansas, had to wear a brace for another three months while recovering from surgery but she has experienced very little discomfort since then.
“I always like to work out and my back feels better when I work out,” she said. “I just try to keep it strong and loose, just try to take care of it as best I can.”
Asked whether she was ever bothered by her back out on the course, Lewis replied: “When it’s cold out, it’s tougher, just to get moving a little bit. But knock on wood, I haven’t had any troubles in a long time, not since the surgery.” (Editing by Greg Stutchbury; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)