Jacksonville native Amelia Lewis chasing first LPGA Tour victory

Jacksonville native Amelia Lewis chasing first LPGA Tour victory

OCALA | Amelia Lewis will be the first one to say this: It’s time to win.

14087541The Bolles graduate and Jacksonville native begins her fifth season on the LPGA Tour this week at the Coates Championship at the Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club. She also has held dual status on the Ladies European Tour over that time and has played pro events in nearly a dozen countries (racking up 436,000 frequent flier miles at the age of 23.)

After finishing 66th on the LPGA money list last season with $212,578, and getting into contention on a handful of Sundays, Lewis has only two goals for 2015: her first LPGA title and enough of a consistent season to get into the mix for the Solheim Cup.

“I’ve got to get a win,” she said. “You do that by putting yourself in contention as much as possible. The first step is to be more consistent.”

Lewis had four top-20 finishes last season, highlighted by a tie for sixth at the Women’s Australian Open and a tie for 17th at the Women’s Open Championship.

Her opening round at Golden Ocala on Wednesday was an example of how good her game can be.

There were mistakes, to be sure. Lewis bogeyed No. 8 from the fairway, failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker twice and found the trees with two drives on a course noted for its wide fairways.

But then there were the shots and putts that showed that she has a wealth of talent waiting to burst through.

On the front nine, Lewis made a twisting 30-foot par putt at No. 6, birdied the seventh on a 15-footer and nearly chipped in for birdie at No. 9.

After a bogey at the 10th hole, Lewis went to Golden Ocala’s 11th, a replica of the 12th hole at the Augusta National Golf Club. She smacked her tee shot to within 4 feet and made the birdie attempt. She then hit her third shot from the rough at the par-5 12th from an uneven lie on a bank and gouged it to within 12 feet, making the putt for birdie.

Lewis bogeyed the 17th hole after missing the fairway and the green but finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th, sticking her third shot to within 3 feet for a 71. She also did it in front of almost three dozen family and friends who took advantage of the closest proximity of an LPGA event to her hometown since she made the Tour out of the 2010 national qualifying tournament.

Other relatives came from as far away as Ohio to watch her play, and she had to leave a total of 53 tickets for family during the week.

“Family has always been the most important thing for her,” said Lewis’ mother, Georgina Lewis.

Lewis said her priorities during the offseason were physical conditioning and improving her iron play. She was 125th in greens in regulation last season but 42nd in putts per greens hit.

“When I hit the greens I make a lot of putts,” she said. “I just didn’t hit enough greens.”

Lewis also began working with Jeffrey Fronk, who trains other golfers such as FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel and Jim Furyk.

“Last year, I felt I had a chance to win four or five tournaments on the back nine, but there were situations in which I was exhausted,” she said. “I’m working with Jeff on stamina.”

Lewis also had the tough task of replacing her brother, Chris, as her caddie, while he finishes his college education at North Florida. She hired Lorcan Morris of Ireland, a veteran caddie who also worked for Len Mattiace of Jacksonville for a brief time.

“You’ve got to have trust with your caddie, and that’s what I had with Chris,” she said. “But it feels very natural working with Lorcan.”

Morris said his job is easier given Lewis’ devotion to her job and said Lewis’ family, sponsors, coach Todd Anderson of Sea Island and Fronk are providing maximum support.

“The support system she surrounds herself with, the team she has, is really incredible,” Morris said. “With her work ethic, she’s giving herself every chance to be successful.”

Lewis’ devotion to golf also leaves out a normal social life. She has a running joke about that.

“Boys equal bogeys,” she said with a laugh. “I have a lot of male friends but that’s what they are, friends. The travel makes it very difficult right now.”

However, Lewis has another type of social life: Twitter and Facebook. She is using those social media tools to reach out to fans and build her brand. She has more than 5,000 Twitter followers and is approaching 20,000 “likes” on her Facebook page.

According to research by her mother, who owns the website design and social media marketing firm Shazzam-Media.com, Lewis is seventh on the LPGA in social media use in terms of followers, likes, postings and how often her posts are either re-Tweeted or shared on Facebook.

But everything will come down to what happens on the golf course. Lewis said her attitude is to never be satisfied with her game.

“You can’t be content with anything,” she said. “If you do, you’ll slip off. You have to keep trying to get better and better.”

-Submitted by Garry Smits