On a business trip several years ago I moved from the Tokyo Hilton to Hotel Prince in Shinjuku because it was nearer my office at Sunshine 60, the tallest building in Tokyo.
After checking in, I boarded the elevator. An American looked awfully familiar, but I couldn’t remember her name, so I asked. It was Jan Stephenson, the golfer who had appeared in Playboy. She was ticked because I didn’t know her name.
My room was such that I could lie on the bed and touch the walls with my outstretched palms. Later, in the lobby, I found a bevy of professional women golfers. They were there to compete in the last LPGA event of the year, the Mazda/Mizuno Classic.
These ladies soon adopted me, as I was the only American golf fan in sight. I rode on the train with them and then on a bus to get to the course. I sat next to Heather Farr, and we worked on a crossword puzzle together. (Later, sadly, she would succumb to breast cancer.)
During a practice round, I followed Liselotte Neumann, Amy Alcott and one other. Amy asked me to take a picture of the threesome with her camera — which I did, only to find out it was out of film.
The caddies were women who were dressed like flying nuns. Each hole had two greens — one for summer and one for winter. My association with these women gave me a free pass into the clubhouse. It was there that I had breakfast with Laura Davies.
Patty Sheehan won the tournament, and the train ride back to Tokyo was hilarious. These women, led by Juli Inkster, let off steam and enjoyed rude jokes until Betsy King, who sat in front of me, cautioned them to clean up their acts. Juli convinced me she could take over for Jay Leno any time.
In 2003, my wife and I began hosting women for the North-South Women’s Amateur tournament in Pinehurst. This tournament began in 1902 and celebrates its 112th competition this year. For two consecutive years, Arkansas Lady Razorback Stacy Lewis stayed with us. One of those times, three other Arkansas players joined Stacy here at our house. It was like a dormitory then, and the ribbing and chuckles were never-ending.
In gratitude for our hospitality, Stacy sent Arkansas Razorback headcovers to both of us, which we still use.
Stacy started playing golf at the age of 8 and credits her parents “for encouraging me to play even after having back surgery” as the individuals most influencing her career.
From the age of 11, Lewis wore a back brace 18 hours a day for 71⁄2 years to correct curvature in her spine from scoliosis, removing it only to play golf.
She had back surgery during her senior year of high school and redshirted for one season before joining the University of Arkansas women’s golf team. Her hobbies include working out, watching any sports (especially SEC football), traveling and having spare time to herself. She qualified to be a pro on her first attempt.
One of Stacy’s close pals is Lucy Nunn, who tried to go professional but didn’t quite make it. She has been an assistant golf coach at the University of Kentucky for the past three years.
We have enjoyed watching Stacy climb to the top of the LPGA money list. So I contacted her agent to see if we could get together sometime during the just-concluded U.S. Women’s Open and was lucky enough to catch her after one of her practice rounds.
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at dahtmuth58 @aol.com.