Lewis owes success to winning raffle ticket


Lewis owes success to winning raffle ticket

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) Stacy Lewis might not be the LPGA Tour player of year if not for her doctor buying a raffle ticket he didn't want.

It's a bizarre twist in her unlikely path to the top of women's golf. And it's a reminder to Lewis that whenever she asks that familiar question - ``Why me?'' - the answer no longer is grounded in self-pity, but in sheer amazement.

``I guess it's fate a little bit,'' Lewis said.

Fate doesn't happen without hard work, and few players had it tougher than Lewis.

She was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 11, so severe that she wore a back brace for 18 hours every day from age 11 until she got out of high school, and then had to have surgery when that didn't correct the curvature in her spine.

That's when Gary Brock, her orthopedic surgeon in Houston, entered the picture.

Brock knew Lewis played golf at The Woodlands Country Club. He just didn't know she was good enough to have earned a scholarship to Arkansas. In the months leading up to her back surgery, Brock was invited to a charity event in which one of the prizes was a series of lessons with a golf pro.

``I went with a friend of mine. He was the one who wanted to win the raffle ticket,'' Brock said Wednesday. ``I just bought one to humor him, and I ended up winning. The pro that I worked with had worked with Stacy. All summer long, he said what a great golfer she could be.''

It was enough for Brock to consider giving Lewis a chance to succeed.

The original plan was to insert two rods in her bad. Brock suggested a single rod with five screws, which would allow her more flexibility and rotation for golf. It also meant going in from the side, breaking a rib and maneuvering around two major blood vessels.

``I remember he called my wife and I and said, `We need to do a different surgery,''' said Dale Lewis, her father. ``He said, `It's going to take twice as along. It's twice as risky. The recovery is twice as long. But she'll be so much more flexible.'''

Lewis took it from there.

She spent her first year at Arkansas as a redshirt, recovering from surgery. She could only chip and putt for six months before she was allowed to swing, and she earned a spot on the team. As a junior, she won the NCAA title. As a senior, she tied for third at the Kraft Nabisco Championship on an amateur invitation. She ended her amateur career by going undefeated at the Curtis Cup.

And now this, a breakthrough year of four wins to become the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to win the points-based player of the year. She will be honored Friday night during the LPGA Titleholders, and Brock is flying to Florida to join the celebration.

All because of his raffle ticket?

``Exactly,'' Lewis said, smiling at how something so small can lead to something so grand. ``I think it's amazing how you make a decision a certain way, how little things seem to fall into place and you can look back say that was a turning point. At the time, I didn't really think the stuff with my doctor was that big of a deal. But now looking back, I mean, he doesn't win the raffle and I'm not here today? It's crazy.''

Brock thinks that might be a stretch, but not much of one. Lewis still could have played golf with two rods in her back, but it's fine line between good and great, and he wonders if she could have gone as far as she has.

With Lewis, though, there was always something about her that had nothing to do with science.

``She has a spirit about her,'' Brock said. ``I don't think anything would have held her back.''

That spirit showed as a kid. Lewis despised being in a brace, and she hated it even more when she was told after three years that she needed to keep it even longer because she kept growing. Her father said she never bought clothes, such as sleeveless shirts or halter tops, that would expose her brace. It was a happy day when the brace came off for good, and Lewis thought about burning it. Instead, she keeps two of them in a closet at her parents' house - the first one and last one she had to wear. Her agent said a photo doesn't exist anywhere of Lewis wearing the brace. She refused to be seen in it.

``She got over the bitterness and it became, `How lucky I am that I still get to play golf,''' the father said. ``She just wanted to be normal again.''

There is nothing flashy about Lewis, which might explain how she reached her main goal - becoming the highest-ranked American in women's golf - and achieved another one that she didn't think possible at the start of the year the way Yani Tseng ruled the sport.

That also might explain why she has been overlooked for so much of her career. She didn't have the star power of Michelle Wie, the youth of Lexi Thompson, the marketing prowess of Paula Creamer.

``I didn't have all the expectations everyone else had and I think that's really helped me get to where I am,'' Lewis said. ``I like working hard. Some girls like to do all the extra stuff off the course and the sponsor things and this and that, and I just love to go out and play golf. I don't know if that's what has gotten me to this point versus everybody else. But that's just what I like to do.''

There is work left for Lewis at the LPGA Titleholders, which starts Thursday at TwinEagles Golf Club.

Lewis would have to win to have any chance of overtaking Inbee Park on the money list. Park also has a narrow lead in the Vare Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average. Otherwise, this week is a celebration.

Brock didn't realize until this week that Lewis would be honored Friday night. He rescheduled a clinic to be there. Even now, he has a hard time believing that a change of surgery brought on by a winning raffle ticket would lead to this. That the little girl, who grew 1 1/2 inches after surgery, would become the best American female in golf.

``We would never have dreamed that in a million years,'' Brock said.

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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable


UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UMBC's improbable run through the NCAA Tournament was brief. The statement the Retrievers made and their place in history is forever.

For one weekend in March, the tiny commuter school from Baltimore known for its academics and championship-winning chess team captured the hearts of the college basketball world and beyond. UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in March Madness, a victory over Virginia that made the Retrievers the ultimate Cinderella.

The fairytale came to an end Sunday night in a 50-43 loss to No. 9 Kansas State -- heartbreaking because it was a game UMBC could have won, but still satisfying because the Retrievers touched so many people by accomplishing what many thought was impossible.

"We put our name on the map. We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," said senior guard K.J. Maura. "I think we gave hope to guys that are not even that tall like me. People that feel like they are underdogs in their life, I think we gave hope to everything they want to do in life."


Stephen Curry noticed the team and sent UMBC the sneakers the team wore against Kansas State. The Golden State Warriors had his Curry 5s, which are in limited release, and other swag sent to the team. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared the Retrievers "Surgeon General approved" and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted to UMBC guard Joe Sherburne, who claims to be Rodgers' biggest fan. And for a team addicted to the video game "Fortnite," their dreams were made when Ninja, a popular gamer who recently played against rapper Drake and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, FaceTimed with the team early Sunday.

"They play with passion, they play with heart, they play together," coach Ryan Odom said. "We do things together for one another, and obviously when you have a big win like that (over Virginia) and it's so shocking, you know, people love to see that. They love to see the upset.

"And our guys handled it with grace and understood the circumstances. They weren't pounding their chests or anything. They expected to be here and expected to compete."

When UMBC returned to the locker room following its ouster, Odom had written just one word on the whiteboard. The Retrievers needed a buzzer-beating 3 against Vermont to win their conference title and make the NCAA Tournament, but they showed up believing they could beat Virginia, and the same about Kansas State.


So Odom simply penned "Proud" on the board for his players.

"Just very proud of these kids and what they've been able to do as the representatives that they are for our university," Odom said. "Just captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective and it's really, really neat to see."

Sherburne said Odom relayed stories from friends who had texted or called from outside the country to rave about UMBC. Near tears after an 0-for-9 shooting night, Sherburne found consolation in the joy UMBC brought to so many.

"From when we beat Vermont until the last two hours were the greatest time of my life," Sherburne said. "What we did, everyone in here, it's the greatest time of our lives."

Odom arrived at UMBC two years ago and inherited a team accustomed to losing. He told them he was going to get them to .500 that first year; they thought he was joking. But slowly the culture changed and the Retrievers did everything Odom told them they could accomplish.

And then some.

"When I got here, first we were a four-win team that year, and then the next year we went on to win seven games," said graduate student Jairus Lyles. "Then Coach Odom and his staff came in, we won 21 games and this year we had a tremendous season."

Odom doesn't know how far the UMBC program can grow. Those four letters are now synonymous with the biggest upset in college basketball history, but it's a long way from becoming a basketball school.

"UMBC is a unique place -- lot of high achieving kids on campus," Odom said. "We want guys that want to be great from a basketball perspective and want to play after college. But, at the same time, we want folks that are highly motivated academically that want to do great things past basketball. Because the air goes out of the ball at some point for everybody."