Jacksonville native Amelia Lewis eager for LPGA Tour try

Jacksonville native Amelia Lewis eager for LPGA Tour try

BRUCE LIPSKY/The Times-Union

Bolles graduate Amelia Lewis is attempting to qualify for the LPGA Tour at its national qualifying tournament in Daytona Beach – BRUCE LIPSKY/The Times-Union

Bolles graduate, 19, gets her game in shape for a shot at LPGA card By Garry Smits

Her putting stroke improved, and her confidence high, Amelia Lewis will attempt to make history beginning today in the first round of the LPGA National Qualifying Tournament in Daytona Beach.

Lewis, 19, is trying to become the first Jacksonville native to be fully exempt on the LPGA since Colleen Walker in 1982.

The difference is that Walker’s family moved to West Palm Beach before she played in high school. Lewis, a Bolles graduate and a three-time Times-Union high school player of the year, is Jacksonville-born and bred and played golf at every level on the First Coast – junior golf, high school and amateur events.

“It’s exciting to have this chance,” she said. “I feel like I’m ready.”

Lewis will have to make a 36-hole and 72-hole cut at the LPGA International, then finish among the top 20, plus ties, to get her LPGA card for the 2011 season.

The next 20 players will have conditional status.

Players who survive all five rounds will play two rounds on the Legends Course and two on the Champions Course, before playing the final round on the Champions Course Dec. 12.

“I’m going to be comfortable on those courses,” Lewis said. “They’re typical Florida courses, and there will be some wind, but that’s what I’ve been playing my whole life.”

Because she finished 19th on the Duramed Futures Tour last season, Lewis was exempt from first- and second-stage qualifying.

She’s been practicing or playing six days a week and working with Sea Island Club instructors Todd Anderson on her full swing and Mike Shannon on her putting.

“We’ve made some nice progress over the last few months, and I’m optimistic about her chances,” Anderson said.

Lewis said she’s made the most strides with her putting. In the past, she said her main fault was leaving putts short, then being over-aggressive. The cycle would repeat itself too many times.

“Everyone knows that putting is the most important thing in golf, but you never truly realize it until you’ve got money on the line, where you can win thousands or lose thousands if you make or miss a putt,” she said.

“Then, if you miss too many, it adds up. I’m swinging the clubs pretty well. The difference is going to be putting.”

Lewis recently ditched her Rife putter for a Yes putter.

“I don’t know that it’s any better, but it was something different, and sometimes that’s all it takes,” she said.

Because Lewis has always been longer than average off the tee and a good iron player, Anderson said he has focused more on wedge play, the short game and course management.

“One of Amelia’s strengths is that she is able to manage her game very well and find ways to score,” Anderson said. “For her age, she’s very mature in that regard.”

Lewis has also spent much of her time building her website (www.amelialewis.com) and is a contributing writer to an online junior golf magazine on how social networking can help young golfers.

Like many professional golfers, Lewis has decided to focus on a charitable cause, and hers is leukemia. The disease recently claimed the life of the 12-year-old son of one of her favorite teachers at Bolles, Steve Soud.

Lewis remains deeply affected by the death of Jonathan Soud and said she wants to do more to raise money and awareness of leukemia in foreign countries.

Becoming an LPGA member would give her more of a voice and financial opportunities, she said.

“Our cure rate in the U.S. for children can be as high as 85 percent,” she said. “It’s more like 50 percent in other countries, and there are some where the treatment and facilities are so rare that very few children survive leukemia.”

(904) 359-4362

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/sports/golf/2010-12-08/story/jacksonville-native-amelia-lewis-eager-lpga-tour-try#ixzz2PbywTbmQZA