Dear Chesnee: LPGA Tour golfer Stacy Lewis pens a letter to her young daughter
Being your mom has been the greatest joy of my life. For most of my life before you I was focused on my golf game, my professional career and myself.
In the spring of 2018, when I found out that you were on your way, I couldn't believe it. I always wanted to be a mom. But like so many other women, I was scared of what was to come. Could I do it all? Could I play competitive golf at the highest level and be a good mom?
I played professional golf with you in my belly until I was eight months pregnant, playing in tournaments up until the six-month mark. It might sound weird, but physically that wasn't the most challenging part. Six weeks after giving birth to you on Oct. 25, I attempted to start training again. But I didn't realize how much my body needed to recover. So, I took it slow -- a foreign concept for most pro athletes like myself. Little did I realize, having a baby is like having major surgery, and my body needed time to heal. Then, at eight weeks, I officially started training again. Just 10 weeks after you were born, I was swinging a club.
Less than three months after you were born, I returned to the LPGA Tour for the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions on Jan. 17. I ended up shooting 8-under par and placing sixth in the tournament -- not bad for a new mom with a body still aching! But, to be honest, returning to competitive golf as a new mom has been hard. Much harder than I expected. Those first few months my body felt so weak. Everything felt different and out of place, and I wondered if I would be able to get back. I really had to learn to be patient with myself and just focus on the task at hand to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Since your arrival, everything has changed. My practice schedule, my gym time, my mindset when I'm out there on the course. It's not just about me and my golf score anymore. You are my fresh perspective, my deeper sense of purpose, the reason I push through when my back is to the wall, when I feel like giving up on the hard days. When I come off the course and you smile at me like it's the first time you're seeing me, everything is right in the world.
In just a few short months of being your mom I have learned so much. Such as how little sleep is really needed to function on. And that it's really hard to raise a kid!
I've realized that other things don't matter as much anymore, such as planning things perfectly or getting everything done in a day. I feel less important than ever but simultaneously more important because I realize how big of a responsibility it is to be a parent. I think about all the things I want to teach you.
Both your Daddy (who happens to be the women's golf coach at the University of Houston) and I share a love for the game of golf. The sport has taught me so many values, such as sportsmanship, how to win and how to lose with grace. Hard work, humility, etiquette, manners, honesty, perseverance. So many life skills that I hope you will learn because life is not always easy or fair.
I wish I could protect you forever. But at some point I know you will be faced with adversity. I've dealt with a fair share of it myself. Someday you will hear about how I have a rod and five screws in my back, and that, for seven and a half years when I was a little girl, I had to wear a back brace all day, every day, even when I was sleeping. I could only take it off to play golf. I hated that experience. It was grueling mentally, physically, emotionally, but it really forged me into who I am today. I'm better when my back is to the wall. I hope my example teaches you to find a way to embrace adversity in your life and turn it into a positive.
Being a parent is such a humbling thing. It makes you realize nobody has it all figured out. I find myself more amazed than ever by all the working moms out there juggling, doing the best they can to "have it all." I couldn't do any of this without a strong support system. My mom (Nina, as the grandkids call her) has been a lifesaver in more ways than one. Without my mom and your dad, I'd be lost. I've also found support in unexpected places, too -- from people in the grocery store, to CEOs on the golf course.
This year, there's a baby boom on the LPGA Tour. For a long period, the tour kept getting younger and younger, and the number of moms competing began to dwindle with each season. But, now, there are 11 moms on the LPGA Tour with seven babies being born last year and three more on the way. There's something special about being pregnant at the same time as good friends and competitors. I'm so thankful to share all the "firsts" and learn the ropes with the other new moms on tour.
Before the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March, Gerina Piller, a fellow competitor and new mommy, asked me: "How are we going to do this?" In that moment, I shared with her my philosophy on this new chapter of my life: "We're going to get through this day by day. It's about finding the right balance for both of us, and we will." And, I truly believe that! Every day is a new lesson, challenge and opportunity to become the best mother and golfer.
The LPGA Tour has supported us in so many ways, especially with their on-site daycare. This season, Smucker's celebrated 25 years as the LPGA's daycare sponsor. The LPGA, with its sponsor, increased the daycare hours and staff so that kids like you can have some sort of consistency to your surroundings and routine no matter what part of the world we are in. It's hard to imagine what it would be like if the daycare didn't exist. I don't know how former players like Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez or 1980 rookie of the year Myra Blackwelder managed to do it all without that assistance.
Last year, my sponsor, KPMG, made an unprecedented move when it told me it wanted to pay my full contract, even though I missed part of the season due to maternity leave. I remember the moment so vividly when I was sitting in the parking lot of Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles and received the call from KPMG. My eyes began to tear up, knowing that it would step up to give me a paid maternity leave to make it possible for me to have a career and a family. In March, Brittany Lincicome announced that two of her endorsers, CME and Diamond Resorts, would honor her contracts when she steps away on maternity leave. It's not lost on the both of us that this is not standard policy in player deals.
But you know what, Chesnee? It's 2019. This shouldn't be the exception to the rule. There's so much more work that needs to be done to support female athletes that are new moms or that want to have a family. So many women, athletes in particular, are forced to choose between having a career and a family. That's not the example I want to set for you. I don't want you to have to "pick one."
Being a working mom is hard, but I do it because I want you to know, Chesnee, that it's possible to be an amazing mom and the very best professionally, at whatever you choose to be in life at the same time. I want you to know that you were a part of what I did on the golf course. You weren't an afterthought to my career, you were a part of my career. I want to show you that you can have a voice, that you can be a leader, that you can have a family. And that having a kid is not a bad thing for your career.
I hope that you grow up to be a strong, independent woman, to have a voice of your own, to believe in yourself, to be a leader. To be whatever you choose. And to know that I will never stop fighting for what's right.