Rooting for an individual athlete is different than rooting for a team.
Teams are entities, not human beings with morals and other personal attributes. I’m a New York Mets fan regardless who manages them, plays for them, or owns them.
But when it comes to rooting for an individual athlete—especially an LPGA player, given how much LPGA golf I watch—I don’t waste my energy rooting for just anyone. All the current LPGA players have great swings, are fun to watch, and are likeable. But rooting FOR someone? Really wanting someone’s putt to drop? That’s different.
I was pondering this notion of “fandom” while I was sitting at the 10th tee of the ANA Inspiration, watching LPGA players make the turn and waiting for someone I liked enough to follow for 9 holes. Lots of players passed but no one who made me want to put down my coffee and get off my tuchas. That’s when I started wondering about being a fan.Why do we root for some players and not others?
There I was, deep in thought, when Stacy Lewis made the turn.
I LOVE STACY!
I put down my coffee, got off my tuchas and began to follow one of my favorite players. But I kept pondering what it means to be a fan, so I tried to isolate why I root for Stacy Lewis.
Here’s what I figured out.
First, Stacy satisfies my core fandom criterion:
I root for the underdog (I’m a Mets fan for a reason). Stacy was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 11, and the condition worsened so much that she had to have surgery. If that wasn’t enough, she then had to wear a brace for 7 years! I can’t imagine facing such a challenge as a teen. I was fortunate to be able to interview Stacy for this piece, and she said that the medical issues she faced back then still shape her to this day.
Stacy is also known to speak out for others—a trait I’ve always admired—and she’s been especially outspoken about women’s issues.
When I asked her about this her answer was simple and incredibly telling: “I want things to get better for everyone, and I don’t want someone to get pushed aside.” She cites her mother as her guide and inspiration. “My mom has made a huge impact on me and helped me speak out on what I believe. I speak up because it was the example that was set for me.”
Stacy has spoken up about the pay gap between men and women and about the caliber of venues played by the LPGA vs the PGA. And she’s pressed sponsors to continue sponsoring players while they take leaves of absence to have children.
KPMG, her sponsor, should be applauded for being the first sponsor to do this, and it’s well known that Stacy had a lot to do with KPMG’s decision.
And Stacy isn’t just talk.
In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit her hometown of Houston. Before the very next LPGA tournament, the Cambia Portland Classic, Stacy announced she would donate her entire winnings to the Houston hurricane relief efforts. Stacy hadn’t won a tournament since 2014 when she made that statement, but what did she do? She won the tournament! A coincidence? Maybe. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest it wasn’t. I just believe Stacy is the kind of person who, when winning would benefit others, wants it that much more.
Then there’s Stacy the mom.
It’s hard for any mother to raise a child, and while I’m not an expert on the subject, having a child with you on the LPGA tour has to be especially tough.
First off, the travel is a nightmare. In the past 6 months, Stacy has played in 16 tournaments—from Florida to Minnesota, Hawaii to France. And brought her baby, Chesnee, with her! These aren’t quick stopovers, by the way—players must get to each tournament early enough to practice on Tuesday, play a Pro-Am on Wednesday, then compete from Thursday to Sunday before flying out to their next tournament.
But, travel aside, many of the demands of motherhood have nothing to do with logistics. When I asked Stacy about the challenges of having Chesnee on Tour, she said that besides the travel, the hardest part was prioritizing. Stacy wants to be a great golfer, of course. But now, Chesnee is more important than anything.
Stacy Lewis has already made a real difference for women’s golf and women’s equality. Maybe having Chesnee will make her even more passionate about speaking out on what’s important to her.
But whatever she does in the future, one thing is for sure . . . I’ll be rooting for her.