“A lot of the women in there, they’re getting the business talk all day,” Stacy Lewis said moments after walking out of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit. “I’m just kind of putting a different spin on it.”
That spin, which took place Wednesday afternoon at the Atlanta Athletic Club, included Lewis re-telling her story of motherhood and the choices she feared she would have to make as she balanced family with a successful professional career.
“Becoming a mom has impacted every part of my life,” Lewis said. “It’s definitely going to impact my golf. It’s changed my practice and my preparation. My time at the golf course is a lot shorter. But I also forget about it a lot quicker, which is the best part of it all. I’ll have a bad day and [my daughter, Chesnee] will run up and give me a hug on the putting green, and I forget all about it.
“So, it’s been great to have that balance in my life. There was a time when I was No.1 in the world and that was awesome. But everything was about golf and I didn’t have a whole lot of time for anything else. I’m at a different point in my life now where I want to have things outside of golf.”
A lot of athletes and executives say those things. But once you attempt to create that balance, something seems to always suffer.
Not with Lewis. If anything, everything in her life has improved.
“Before, everything I did—what time I went to bed, what I ate, where I went—was all about what it took for me to play golf,” she said. “Now, if Chesnee needs a bath, that takes priority.”
Last year, with Chesnee at home in Houston, Lewis won the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, her first victory since giving birth. And on Wednesday of KPMG Women’s PGA Championship week, she shared her Drive On story with the world.
“I want to show [Chesnee] that you can be a working mom; you can have kids; you can lead an organization; you can be a professional athlete; you can do whatever you want to still have a family,” Lewis said. “She doesn’t know it now. She’s hanging out at daycare having a good ole time. But hopefully someday she will appreciate what I have shown her and done for her.
“Golf’s given me so much. I want the next generation of girls playing the LPGA Tour to have a better experience that I’ve had. And then, hopefully, Chesnee has that opportunity down the road.”
Lewis made a compelling case for equality in sports, the workplace, and life by asking a simple, one-word question: Why?
“I hope 20, 30 years from now we’re not having the conversations about inequalities in the workplace, inequalities in sports,” she said. “That’s my ultimate goal with all of this. I’ve always been the person to ask ‘Why? Why do we make less money than the guys?’ ‘Why don’t we get on better golf courses?’ ‘Why?’ If somebody can give me a legitimate reason, then okay. But let’s make things better across the board and continue to push the envelope, raise the bar.”
Lewis points to her longtime partnership with sponsor KPMG as an example how things can and should be.
“When Lynn Doughty was still chairman of KPMG, my husband and I were at the Masters doing an event, and we decided to tell her that we were pregnant,” Lewis said. “I was honestly scared to tell my sponsors. I didn’t know what to expect. In golf, you have a play a certain number of tournaments to get the money you’re contracted to receive. If I didn’t play the minimum events, I might not get paid. There’s no guarantee. About a week later, they called me and said Lynn wanted to pay my entire contract all year.
“Knowing that they had my back, that they were going to be there when I came back to play, it led to all but one of my sponsors at the time doing the same thing.
“After that, Brittany Lincicome and Gerina Piller had their sponsors do the same thing. It was amazing. KPMG treated me like an employee on maternity leave. It was one of those moments when you knew everything was going to be okay.”
Now, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship continues that commitment by doing the right thing and answering Lewis’ why question with, Why not?
“It started with a conversation about how to make the Tour better,” she said. “I said, we need higher purses; we need better golf courses; and we need network TV. We need more women’s sports on network TV across the board. That sparked something within KPMG. But I could have never envisioned that it would turn into something this big. KPMG has knocked it out of the park with this event.
“I just hope this becomes a norm. I want this to be every week for us, not a one-off. I’m going to keep pushing. I’m going to keep asking, why. Why don’t we do it this way every week?
“These female athletes are so good. We don’t get watched enough. We need that to change. That’s why I’m doing to keep pushing. For them. And for my daughter.”