Stacy Lewis has long been a change agent for the LPGA Tour. Her newest target? The Solheim Cup.
In 2023, Lewis will become the youngest ever to captain the U.S. team when the Solheim Cup is held at Finca Cortesin in Spain. Lewis, 36, is a four-time member of Team USA and she has twice served as an assistant to former captains Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst, who were part of the selection committee that chose Lewis.
“I feel like the team needs me right now,” Lewis said about becoming captain. “I knew this was going to happen at some point in my career. Obviously, earlier than I thought, but it's OK. I feel like it's the right time for Team USA and it's the right time for me to step in.”
Lewis’ appointment as captain is, in and of itself, an indicator of change. And while her selection doesn’t come as a surprise, the timing is unexpected.
Angela Stanford, 44, was a frontrunner for the ’23 captaincy She is a six-time team member and served as an assistant to Hurst at Inverness in 2021. Cristie Kerr, a nine-time playing member, owns the record for most career points on the American side. Kerr, also 44, would have been a timely pick given her stature in the game. Instead, Lewis’ selection comes as a signal that the tour has chosen to take a new direction in selecting a young, contemporary of the team's members to lead its next squad.
“I think I said at least five or six times, ‘Are you sure? I don’t want to step on anybody's toes. Are you sure,’” Lewis said about getting the unexpected call from LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan. “And they said, ‘Yes, this is who the committee wants.’”
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Lewis could become the first playing captain for the Americans. She begins her captaincy ranked No. 4 in the U.S. Solheim Cup points standings, which, should she maintain her position, would make her an automatic qualifier for her own team.
Historically, the LPGA Tour has selected captains who are further removed from their playing careers. Of the 12 players to captain Team USA, just three played a full schedule during their tenure. Inkster was the last to play a regular schedule while serving as captain three times, between 2015-19. Although Inkster actively competed week to week against the players she led, her experience doesn’t compare to Lewis, who won as recently as 2020 and was in contention last week at the LPGA Drive On Championship.
“I always thought when I was captain I would not be playing,” Lewis said when asked about the possibility of being a playing captain. “I would say the last two weeks have definitely changed my view on that, coming out the way I've played the last month or so. But I'm not going to say yes or no either way right now.”
Even though it comes earlier than anticipated, being a Solheim Cup captain is a natural step for Lewis, who has already assumed a number of leadership roles in her 14 years on the tour.
In 2015, it was Lewis who facilitated bringing KPMG, one of her longtime sponsors, on-board to rescue the floundering LPGA Championship. Since 2018, Lewis has been a vocal advocate for pay equity after her contract was paid in full by KPMG while she was on maternity leave, which has been a rarity in women’s golf. Since becoming a mother, Lewis has been a model for other parents on tour. In 2020, she showed the world it's possible to be both a champion and a mother when she won for the first time since giving birth to her daughter, Chesnee. In January, Lewis was elected to the LPGA board as a player director.
Since Lewis received the call to become captain, she has been traveling with a notebook. Inside, she scribbles down ideas or thoughts she has about how she’d like to change or improve the Solheim Cup. She has years of experience upon which to draw, having been part of the U.S. team in some capacity since 2011.
Lewis says her early priorities as captain will include laying out a foundation for future captains so there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel every two years. Next, she wants to take more input from the members of her team about who they want to play with and what works best for their schedule. Lewis says she has learned that not every player likes to get on a bus at 8 a.m. to go practice. And she says competing in the Solheim Cup is, as she describes it, “the hardest tournament they will ever play,” so she wants to ensure the event remains as stress-free as possible.
“How can I make the environment really positive, really fun,” Lewis said about her top priorities as captain. “And make the girls really be a team and care about each other. Don’t want to win the Solheim Cup for me, go win the Solheim Cup for the other girls with you.”
The younger selection could come as a welcome change for the Americans who will face a formidable challenge in Spain. The Americans are not only trying to win back the cup for the first time since 2017, but they’ll do so on foreign soil and face a European squad led by Solheim Cup stalwart Suzann Pettersen. It’s a challenge that Lewis is relishing. Lewis describes herself as a fighter, and rightfully so. She dealt with scoliosis as a child, which forced her to wear a back brace for more than seven years and undergo spinal fusion surgery. Lewis’ gritty style of leadership could be just what the Americans need in Spain.
“I want to get this cup back so bad,” Lewis said. “I’ve been an underdog my entire career, so it gets me more fired up, to be honest. Make it harder and we’re going to find a way to do it.”
Wherever Stacy Lewis puts her focus, she seems to succeed in bringing about positive change.
She found a way to help save the LPGA Championship with the assistance of her longtime sponsor. She also helped other moms on tour receive the money they deserve during maternity leave. And, with a baby in tow, Lewis found a way to win for a 13th time in her career.
Now, with a notebook in hand and a keen ear for listening, Lewis is placing all that energy not just into winning back the cup, which of course she’d like to do, but into making the Solheim Cup the best event possible. Whether the Americans win in Spain or not, Lewis will come away having left the Solheim Cup better than she found it. Just as she has done time and again at the LPGA.