01 Jul 19-year-old Mandarin resident is honing her swing perfect on golf tour
Amelia Lewis is gaining notice, less than three months after turning pro – By Sandy Strickland
She was always a tomboy, playing tackle football in the mud with the guys and not caring if her hair got mussed. Amelia Lewis also played basketball, soccer, tennis, gymnastics and even swam like a mermaid.
But the Mandarin woman surprisingly chose a career that doesn’t require any running – golf.
“It’s kind of weird, but it intrigued me,” the 19-year-old said. “If you’d told me before the age of 10 that I’d be playing golf, I probably would have laughed.”
She’s playing it so well that she’s drawing admiration, not laughter. She’s racked up 51 titles, was the third-ranked female amateur golfer by Golfweek and left the University of Florida after a semester to turn pro.
Over the past three months, The Bolles School graduate has been in a different state every week and is one of the youngest players on tour. Her life rotates around golf, she said during a telephone interview while she and her mother, Gina, were driving from Canada to Kentucky, where she was playing in a pro-am.
“I wake up at 5:30 a.m., get in an exercise workout and go straight to the golf course until it’s dark,” Lewis said. “Then I eat and go to bed. Sleeping is really a treat.”
Lewis is on the LPGA’s developmental Duramed Futures Tour, which prepares the best young female professional golfers for a successful career on the LPGA Tour.
And she’s doing very well for someone who just turned pro in early April. She’s ranked 13th out of 200 who have shot sub-par rounds, her mother said. A former executive with the LPGA tour even told Gina Lewis that it’s amazing how well her daughter is doing in less than three months.
Lewis, who will be writing a column for Junior Golf Central, an online magazine, was 10 when she picked up her first club. She was addicted to golf by the age of 12.
“We just weren’t expecting her to love the game so much,” Gina Lewis said.
So much so that she won one title after another. She was a three-time Times-Union All-First Coast girls golfer of the year; played golf at Bolles for five years, where she also shone in the classroom; and won a golf scholarship to UF.
Last year, she won the prestigious North and South Women’s Amateur Golf Championship, an annual invitational tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., which comes with a 30-pound Putter Boy trophy. Her picture now hangs in the hallway of the Pinehurst Resort.
Gina Lewis, who is her coach and caddy, credits her success to physical ability, fitness and the passion to work nine hours a day.
“What separates her from a lot of the girls is her mental toughness,” she said. “Off the course, she’s extremely polite, giving, a Christian and a strong leader.”Lewis said she becomes fearless and yes, even stubborn, on the course. If she doesn’t make a putt, for instance, she’ll practice all day because she knows she can sink it.”You create your own destiny,” said Lewis, who practices at the Palencia Club in St. Johns County and Eagle Landing Golf Club in Orange Park. “Why not? Why live in fear and doubtfulness.”She and her mother are grateful for the instruction of swing coach Todd Anderson and putting coach Mike Shannon from Sea Island in Georgia and short-game coach Tim Spangler from Eagle Landing.Lewis said she has no regrets about leaving UF early because she’s doing what she loves. Besides, she plans to earn a degree at some point.She said tour life can be hard for women and men, too. Though not as well-recognized, the women’s tour has a lot of great players, Lewis said.”The public is now realizing that women can play golf,” she said.
Among male players, she admires the late Payne Stewart and among female, the late Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Louise Suggs. She also has regard for a lot of players on the LPGA tour but admits that “they’re competitors so I can’t put them on a pedestal because I might be playing against them one day.”
So far, she’s made enough money to cover her expenses.
She’s happy to have Mom with her for the seven weeks she’s been on the road. But Gina Lewis soon will take a break, and her 17-year-old brother, Chris, will be her caddy for four weeks. She also has another brother and a sister. Dad Chris does website designs and social media marketing on the Internet.
Lewis has developed a large fan base in North Florida and South Georgia and has 150 followers on Twitter since joining a month ago. For more information, visit her website at TheAmeliaLewis.com.