Stacy Lewis has some added pressure on her shoulders, and more literally her hat, this week at golf’s inaugural Women’s PGA Championship.
Lewis played a significant role in helping one of her main sponsors -- audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP -- sign on as the title sponsor of the major tournament, which emerged from a partnership between the PGA of America and the LPGA Tour.
“I’ve definitely been told a few times over the last few days that they want me to win,” Lewis, 30, said with a laugh during a telephone interview. “So no pressure or anything.”
The Women’s PGA Championship, which has a $3.5 million purse, is held Thursday through Sunday at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, New York. Lewis, a 30-year-old American who’s No. 3 in the women’s world ranking, has a chance to jump past Lydia Ko and Inbee Park with a victory.
Lewis is featured in KPMG commercials with fellow golf spokesman Phil Mickelson and bears the company logo on her hat. She began hosting golf events that included as many as 30 female executives soon after signing on as a sponsor in 2012. A two-time LPGA Player of the Year who has 11 tour victories and more than $9.3 million in career earnings, Lewis said she was amazed by the participants’ bios.
“I was like, ‘What these women have done is amazing. We need to talk about that and showcase that,’” said Lewis, who like men’s No. 1 Rory McIlroy is a brand ambassador for Omega watches. “That’s where the whole idea started.”
At Lewis’s encouragement, KPMG executives reached out to the LPGA, which had been in talks about a partnership with the PGA of America. That organization runs the PGA Championship, the last of four annual men’s majors. When those two groups came together to start the Women’s PGA Championship -- replacing the 60-year-old LPGA Championship -- LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said KPMG was the first business they contacted. The company jumped at the opportunity to be the title sponsor, though terms of their partnership weren’t disclosed.
“They’ve been coming to me with questions of how to make this a great tournament, what do we need to do?” said Lewis, whose chief recommendations were a well-respected venue, a large prize purse and network television coverage on the weekend. “For me it’s been really special to see it all come together and to be so involved.”
While Mickelson “put KPMG on the map,” said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, Lewis’s connection is an important one.
To help the development and advancement of women on and off the golf course, the event featured a women’s leadership summit. Among the participants were former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Mellon Capital Chairman Gabriela Franco Parcella, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. President Adena Friedman, KPMG U.S. Chairman Lynne Doughtie, Duke Energy President Lynn Good and Golf Channel Executive Producer Molly Solomon.
“You’re seeing a lot more visibility of women in business and the importance of women succeeding in business,” Dorfman said by telephone. “It’s a good time to push that and Lewis is a good person to be behind it -- you’ve got to be a good businesswoman if you’re the No. 1 earner in the U.S. in golf.”
While Lewis can be overshadowed at times by American players such as Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie, her deals with companies such as KPMG, Omega, Antigua, Mizuno and Manulife bring her an additional $1 million annually, Dorfman estimates.
And though Lewis has a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking in New York, she said the biggest opportunity coming out of the tournament may be the leadership summit.
“You have top executives that maybe they see what’s going on with this tournament and they take it back to their teams, their companies and say, ‘Maybe we could do something with the LPGA and benefit our business as well,” Lewis said. “A lot can come out of the relationships that are being built.”