During the final round of a recent golf tournament, Amelia Lewis faces a difficult approach shot. A giant tree stands in her way. As she evaluates the situation, determining her best shot, she remembers that she’s no stranger to obstacles.
When she was 10 years old, her parents sent her to a one-week summer golf camp at their country club, the San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida. She thought golf looked slow and boring until she took her first swing and developed an immediate passion for the game.
It seemed like she was the only girl in Jacksonville playing golf. Neither the San Jose Country Club nor the North Florida PGA Junior Golf Association had a girls division. So she became the only girl to play among the boys. She was 12 years old when she first beat the boys in a round at a local PGA junior tournament. "I relished the challenge and felt like I represented all females in the game of golf when I competed against them," she says. "The boys were shocked. My mom came out to watch me and was crying because I had played so well."
Amelia went on to win more than 51 titles in her junior and amateur career. Golfweek ranked her the no. 3 woman amateur in the world for 2009, just after she won the prestigious North and South Women’s Amateur Championship at Pinehurst.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Conventionally, golfers go through college before turning pro -- a good thing, since education was extremely important to her parents. Her mom, Georgina, was an academic overachiever, graduating from Wesleyan in three years with two degrees. Amelia was an 'A' student, a huge Gator fan, and had known and liked the University of Florida golf coach for years. She was looking forward to attending UF with a few of her high school friends.
When she got there, however, she realized that UF had replaced the golf coach. The new instructor had practice and playing routines that didn't work for Amelia's game. Her golf started to suffer and worsened to the point where she felt she couldn't hit the ball at all.
After a particularly disappointing practice, she sat in her car outside the UF team golf facilities, completely demoralized. It was early December of 2009, and she was about to take final exams before going home for Christmas break. She wanted to leave and not come back. For an hour, under dimming skies, she talked to Georgina on her cell phone. "My mom was trying to persuade me to stay another semester," she says, "but I was in tears about how my dream was to play professional golf, and the longer I stayed at college, the further and further away that dream seemed to be."
On the other end of the line, Georgina felt heartbroken and guilty. She knew she and her husband had been pressuring Amelia to take the path they wanted. She was going to college to please them and needed to be reassured that they would support her desire to postpone her education.
"You have aspirations for your kids," Georgina says in hindsight, "but ultimately they have to create their own destinies."
Once turning pro, Amelia immediately qualified for both the LPGA and Ladies European tours. With such a full schedule, she only gets about four days off each month. Traveling around the world can be fun but lonely. To help out and keep her company, Georgina has sometimes caddied for her, as has her 19-year-old brother, Christopher. For comfort and good luck, Amelia uses a ball marker that she “stole” from her nine-year-old sister, Tiffany. She’s also “obsessed” with Brighton Collectibles and always wears a pair of its earrings when she plays. She may have beaten the boys, but as Georgina says, “You’ve got to do something to feel pretty.”
As with golf, life has its ups and downs. How people face its complicated, hazardous course determines outcomes and defines character. Amelia shows how competitive, stubborn and passionate she is by taking this bold shot at a lifelong dream.
Back at the tournament, Amelia also decides to go for it. She steps up, swings big and sends the ball over and around the tree.