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Stacy Lewis talks KPMG, Solheim Cup and her LPGA journey

todayJune 23, 2024 6

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    Dana Lee, ESPNJun 19, 2024, 08:30 AM ET

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      Dana Lee is a reporter-researcher at ESPN.

Stacy Lewis is a 13-time LPGA Tour winner, two-time major winner, and former No. 1 in world rankings, holding the top spot for consecutive weeks longer than any other American woman before Nelly Korda broke the record in 2022. At 39 years old, the veteran is the U.S. Solheim Cup team captain and the fifth person to captain the team at least twice. Lewis, who tees off at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week, talked to ESPN about how her role in golf has changed since her tour debut in 2009.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ESPN: The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will feature access to advanced data such as strokes gained and shot trails for the first time on the LPGA Tour. What difference will this make for players and fans?

Stacy Lewis: It’s going to be amazing for the players to come off the course and compare stats in real time to historical data. It was an incredibly valuable tool for us during last year’s Solheim Cup, especially with the captain’s picks. [The Solheim Cup roster comprises the top seven players in the point standings and the top two on the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings. As captain, Lewis selects the final three players to the 12-person roster.] You want to know who’s playing the best golf, and diving into the stats, you’re able to see who’s trending in the right direction and who’s not. You’re trying to predict who’s going to play well two or three weeks from now. I’m excited to see this type of data come to the LPGA Tour, and I know it will be well-received by the players and fans.

ESPN: Come September, you’ll return to your role as U.S. Solheim Cup team captain. What did you learn from last year’s tie at Finca Cortesin?

SL: You’re involved in everything that’s going on with the team — from the week’s schedule to the clothes they’re wearing and what the bag looks like. We’re helping them make sure they get their flights booked, and we have transportation to pick them up. I wanted my hand in everything because it affects players’ overall experience. The more relaxed they were, the more they would enjoy being there and be able to play better golf. It’s kind of like having 12 kids for the week. You’re trying to be aware of what’s happening in people’s lives because it also affects how they play golf. I thought being a player at the Solheim Cup was exhausting, but this was by far the most exhausting and tiring I’d ever been.

Obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted, but the progress we made behind the scenes as a team — we took a really young team to Spain and came back with a tie. All in all, it was a success in my book.

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ESPN: Because the COVID-19 pandemic postponed play in 2020, the Solheim Cup is being played in back-to-back years instead of every other year. How do you manage the quick turnaround as captain while balancing being an active tour player?

SL: I’m glad it’s back-to-back because I felt like we have some unfinished business from last time. I’m glad I get another opportunity at it. But playing, having a daughter, and all that, makes life pretty busy. I’m a notetaker, so I have a notepad where I put all my flights in, where I’m going to be, where my husband will be, and where my 5-year-old daughter will be. It’s a daily calendar, basically. It helps me stay organized and not feel so stressed about everything.

ESPN: You’ve been part of the LPGA since 2009. How have you seen the sport change over the years?

SL: It’s changed dramatically, from the purses to the golf courses we’re getting to play at. The play itself is tremendously better. The quality of golf, the talent, the athleticism, the length these girls are hitting it. There’s so much good, right? It’s been really cool to see more athletes choosing the game of golf.

I hope we can find a TV partner that gets us more coverage. Our purses and everything are great — they’re increasing incrementally. But for us to really take the next step, we’ve got to figure out a way to get more exposure for the players. More streaming options and creating more coverage around our events weekly.

ESPN: How has the way you view your career changed since when you first started?

SL: It’s completely changed. I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of great things, and that was because of the opportunity created by the players before me. Now, I feel like it’s my responsibility to help this current generation understand the same thing — you have this opportunity, and it’s your turn to give back. Keep growing this tour.

Playing as a rookie, you’re trying to learn the game and play better golf, and then you become a star, the marquee name. You’re on all the posters. And then you’re being asked to do all the functions, speak on things, and be in a different role. I used to complain about having to do media. It was my mom, to be honest, who said, ‘Look, if you’re going to play good golf, this is what comes with it. You better figure out how to like it.’ I did a bunch of media training and learned how to get comfortable in that position. You feel like you’re being vulnerable and putting yourself out there for the positives and negatives that come with it, but it’s almost freeing in a way. Some people are going to like you, and some people won’t, but you get to be yourself. It’s been really cool to be part of the transformation of this tour over the past 15 years.

Written by: Ag Entertainment

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