Two under par: Siblings drive each other’s golf game


Junior Emily Lewis practices her swing on Chapman’s Wilson Field. Photo by Grant Sewell

It’s not often one refers to a sibling as “coach.”

But for Emily Lewis, a junior on the women’s golf team, her brother Jeff Lewis is more than just a sibling. Growing up in Los Alamitos, California, a small suburb just south of Long Beach, Lewis idolized her brother, seven years her senior. As a child, she would tag along with him to the El Dorado and Skylinks golf courses in Long Beach, where she would watch him putt and drive with aplomb.

Throughout their childhoods, the siblings always battled against one another, competing in board games, soccer, baseball and, of course, golf.

“My biggest role model for golf is definitely my brother,” Lewis said. “He is the reason why I’m so passionate about golf and why I push myself to be better. The ultimate goal is to beat him.”

The dream is not an outlandish one. Last August, on a morning at the Old Ranch Country Club, Lewis shot below par over nine holes, shooting a 35 (-1) to her brother’s even-par 36.

“She has a golf ball signed and dated to mark the historic occasion,” Jeff Lewis said. “I was definitely proud of her, even though I was a bit bummed out myself.”

The ball from that day sits on a shelf in Emily Lewis’s room at home.

Jeff Lewis, 27, is working to qualify for the PGA Tour. But even while golfing on mini-tours, he made time to caddy for his little sister last summer.

The sibling bond and competition has improved Lewis’s game. Last year, she received All-SCIAC Second Team honors and led the Panthers in their first season of women’s golf. The team finished in sixth place out of eight teams in the conference, but Lewis placed in the top 10 in both SCIAC No. 2 and the SCIAC Championship.

After watching her brother play golf throughout their childhood, Emily Lewis decided golf would be more relaxing than soccer, setting aside other sports for golf. It wasn’t until Lewis’s junior year at Los Alamitos High School that she wanted to raise her game to another level, and asked her brother for golfing tips. Now, they get together a couple of times a month to work out the kinks in her game at the Old Ranch Country Club in Seal Beach.

Emily Lewis was a star on the Los Alamitos High School golf team, where she was honored as Most Valuable Player her senior year and made the California Interscholastic Federation Regionals. After she graduated in 2014, she enrolled at the University of California, Davis, but returned home after a year to attend Orange Coast College (OCC), where she picked her clubs back up to play.

While at OCC, she emailed Ming Lao, the Chapman men’s golf coach, and asked if Chapman might have a women’s team in 2016. When Lao said yes, she was euphoric.

“(Lao) said he would love to have me on the team,” she said. “He didn’t have very much convincing to do. I already wanted to come to Chapman.”

The Panthers’ first-year women’s golf coach, 56-year-old September Mirghanbari, has a unique coaching relationship with Emily Lewis. They played together at OCC for one season.

“She is laser-focused on delivering the best round of golf that she can, and is driven to be No. 1,” Mirghanbari said.

Golf requires more mental exertion than physical labor, said Emily Lewis. Despite walking 18 holes and carrying a 20-pound bag on her back, she is more mentally than physically exhausted after a tournament.

In order to prepare for that mental exertion, Emily Lewis follows the same routine before each tournament. A superstitious person, she listens to “Nuvole Bianche” by Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi before teeing off. The song also has personal sentiment. She and her brother grew up playing the piano and he would often play the song.

“That is the last song I will always listen to and I have to finish it,” she says. “I can’t stop it in the middle. It has to finish, so I have to time it perfectly before I tee off.”