Meet the three incredible athletes who are representing the U.S. in golf for the first time in 112 years.
Stacy Lewis of the U.S. hits her approach shot on the 16th hole during the 2016 UL International Crown on July 23, 2016 in Chicago. Stacy Revere | Getty Images
This year the Olympics is including golf for the first time in 112 years, and the United States is sending some of the world’s best golfers to the Olympics … on the ladies’ team. Our two highest-ranked male golfers—like quite a few other male golfers around the world—opted out, citing health concerns and schedule conflicts. There’s been some speculation that a lot of the dropping out was due solely to lack of interest or a failure to understand just how much the Olympics might be able to do for the sport.
Not so for the women.
“I think it’s a little bit disappointing the way the guys have been about it,” Olympic team member Stacy Lewis told GOLF LIVE. “The Zika stuff is a concern, and I certainly understand it. Other than that I don’t think there is too much of an excuse not to go.” Lewis, who married golf coach Gerrod Chadwell on August 5, was so determined to be at the Olympics that she’s combining the competition with her honeymoon.
Teammate Lexi Thompson is also raring to go and play for the United States in Rio. Thompson told the Miami Herald, “Anytime I can represent my country, I will be there. Especially the Olympics because it only happens once every four years.” She added, “I know there are some concerns, but I’m leaving it up to the Olympic Committee and my management team to keep us safe and get us ready for the week.”
At a time when Olympic diving pools are turning green, that view might be a little idealistic. Still, the women’s excitement about being among the first Olympic golfers in more than a century is inspiring to see. The three U.S. women (Lewis, Thompson, and Gerina Piller) will face some stiff competition from the likes of South Korea, New Zealand, Canada, and Thailand, but each of them brings formidable skills and qualities to the competition
Stacy Lewis during the final round of the Cambia Portland Classic held on July 3, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. Michael Cohen | Getty Images
Lewis has been playing golf since high school, battling back from a scoliosis operation to become a top collegiate golfer and then one of the world’s top professionals. Beating such tough obstacles has brought a maturity and focus to her playing. Twice she’s been ranked #1 on the LPGA tour. Though she hasn’t won a championship since 2014, she’s had multiple top-three finishes. In June, she told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I’ve finished second a bunch but I’ve played some good golf … I like what I’m working on. I like where my game is going. I’m starting to trust my swing under pressure.”
Gerina Piller during the 2016 UL International Crown on July 23, 2016 in Chicago. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Unlike her teammates, Piller came to the sport relatively late (starting at the ripe old age of 15) but has risen steadily in the ranks ever since. Piller too is thrilled to be able to play for her country at the Olympics; her best-remembered moment so far came when she sank an eight-foot putt to help lead the American team to victory over the Europeans at last year’s Solheim Cup. “I love America. And nothing gives me more honor than to put on the stars and stripes,” she explains. Her husband, Martin Piller, also a professional golfer, agrees: “Anytime you’re playing for your country, it just means more.” Besides patriotism, both Pillers are known for their good-natured competitive spirit and their strong Christian faith.
Lexi Thompson during the third round of the Meijer LPGA Classic on June 18, 2016 in Belmont, Michigan. Gregory Shamus | Getty Images
Twenty-one-year-old Thompson is by far the youngest member of the U.S. women’s team, a decade younger than both of her teammates. In 2007, at age 12, she became the youngest player to qualify for the Women’s Open, a record that stood until 2014. Thompson is known for her powerful swing, with the highest average driving distance in ladies’ golf; in April she hit her ball an astounding 359 yards at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii.
The women’s golf event begins Wednesday, August 17. Will you be watching?
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