Philadelphia, PA – Approximately 10 years ago Stacy Lewis underwent surgery; major surgery. A titanium rod and five screws were inserted into the then-high school senior's back. She was unsure if she would ever golf again.
Today, Stacy Lewis is arguably the best female golfer in the world.
During last week's season-ending Group Titleholders, Lewis accepted the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year award -- an honor she wrapped up in early November at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
"I just think back to 10 years ago when I remember sitting in a doctor's office and him telling me that I was going to have to have back surgery," Lewis said at the award presentation. "That was the time that, I mean, I thought I would never play golf again. Now 10 years later I'm here winning Player of the Year, that's crazy. That's not normal, you know?"
Lewis' story is widely considered one of the most inspiring in golf. Really, it is one of the best in professional sports as a whole; the kind of against- all-odds fare which Hollywood types continuously search for.
For 7 1/2 years, starting at age 11, Lewis wore a back brace to correct curvature in her spine caused by scoliosis. She endured the brace for 18 hours a day, removing it only to play golf. Still, after all that time, the curvature failed to heal.
Major back surgery was the next step, and although the talented young golfer thought her playing days could be over, her parents thought otherwise. Following the operation they encouraged her to keep at it, and it's a good thing they did.
After a year of redshirting, Lewis hit the links for the University of Arkansas women's golf team and promptly captured 2005 SEC Freshman of the Year honors. The 2007 NCAA Division I National Champion and 2008 SEC Championship Individual Medalist and Player of the Year, Lewis went on to win 12 events during her collegiate career, while garnering All-American honors four times.
She wasn't done there.
Lewis joined the LPGA Tour in 2009 and waited some two years before earning her first win in dramatic fashion when she bested top-ranked Yani Tseng by three shots at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
That major championship victory proved to be Lewis' only win of the year, but she did record 10 other top-10 finishes that season, setting the stage for a whirlwind 2012.
Lewis won a tour-best four events this year are tallied 16 top-10 finishes. In June, she established herself with wins at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic and the ShopRite LPGA Classic, and then kept it going with a Navistar LPGA Classic victory in September.
She then held off a red-hot Inbee Park (who recorded 10 straight top-10 finishes including two victories) with a win at the Mizuno Classic and a fourth-place result at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational to lock up her most prestigious award to date.
"It's unbelievable, especially the way I played the last few months with all the pressure," said Lewis. "I've been thinking about it every day and all the time, and it's just crazy to me just how far I've come over the last few years. To be the best player on this Tour, I don't even know what to say."
Lewis also downplayed her undeniable ability, displaying a side of humility we hope to witness not only in our athletes and the Hollywood protagonists, but also in our day-to-day interactions.
"People that normally win Player of the Year are pretty talented and have kind of played well all along and I've just kind of slowly worked my way up and I think it's most satisfying, everything I've overcome," she continued.
That sense of awareness is often forged in struggle. It's called perspective. Lewis has it, and she has earned it.
She's the kind you root for.