Closing in on her first LPGA win since 2014, Stacy Lewis admits that lifting the trophy and pocketing the $195,000 prize money were far from her thoughts.
Instead, the American golfer had another goal on her mind: to donate her Cambia Portland Classic winnings to the Houston Relief Fund set up in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
It was a victory for the people of Houston — the town she now calls home.
“This week changed my perspective on things a lot,” Lewis told CNN.
“You kind of get caught up in trying to win golf tournaments. Trying to win was the last thing I was thinking about — I was thinking about that check.
“It’s amazing how that’s all I had worked for over the past three years — about getting the win, and yet that was the last thing I thought about on Sunday.”
The hurricane has claimed 53 lives and forced tens of thousands out of their homes and into aid shelters. Houston authorities have said it will “take years” for the city to recover as it comes to terms with the extent of the devastation.
One of 32-year-old Lewis’ sponsors agreed to match her donation, while another has donated an undisclosed amount. The two-time major champion said she hopes the money will help rebuild housing for those whose lives have been devastated by the storm.
“I learned a lot about needing to have an appreciation for what we get to do,” Lewis added. “There’s always people to help, whether it’s a hurricane or a storm, there will always be people who are in a worse situation than us.
“I’ve always though athletes are role models. You’re gifted with a talent, you’re gifted with an ability, and it’s not just to go out there and play golf, play football, or whatever it is.
“There’s always going to be people watching you. You’re a role model whether you like it or not.”
A long wait comes to an end
Lewis moved to Texas at the age of 11, and still lives there with her husband Gerrod Chadwell, who is the University of Houston’s head coach of women’s golf.
She had promised the day before the event to donate her winnings to her adopted hometown and delivered in style following 12 runner-up finishes since her last LPGA victory.
Lewis held a three-shot lead heading into Sunday and withstood a late charge from In Gee Chun, shooting three-under in the final round to beat her South Korean opponent by one stroke.
“I’m excited to get the monkey off my back and just to know I can do it,” said Lewis, referring to the 83 tournaments she’s played since that 2014 win.
“I can hit the shots when I need to and hit the putts when I need to. It’s nice to see yourself do that again.”
Other golfers have also supported the Houston Relief Fund.
Sergio Garcia, whose wife is a Texas native, has promised $2,000 for every birdie and $5,000 for every eagle he makes during the FedExCup, while world No. 1 Dustin Johnson made an unspecified donation to the Red Cross.