Sponsor will pay LPGA star’s contract during maternity leave

Stacy Lewis says she wasn’t thinking about the money. She just wanted to have a family.

And with it, the pregnant LPGA star from the U.S. may have set a precedent when it comes to women and sports and maternity leave.

Due in November, Lewis, a two-time major champion and with 12 wins on the LPGA Tour, is playing in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which starts Thursday at Kemper Lakes Golf Course in the Chicago suburb of Kildeer, Illinois. It’s one of her final tournaments of the year before taking maternity leave.

Typically, a woman leaving the golf course means not generating income. Or they wait to have kids once they’ve retired. That’s not going to be the case for Lewis. That’s because one of her sponsors, KPMG, is paying the full value of her contract while she is on maternity leave.

“I think a lot of people were shocked to learn that that had never happened before,” Lewis said Wednesday. “Players that were, that are moms and have kids, they thought it was the greatest thing ever, just because they had been in my position before and they know what that feels like.

“They just thought it was — I mean, they thought it was unbelievable.

“But at the same time, it was, well, why don’t they do that. More than anything, it brought attention to it, and that’s the goal, and that’s why I put it out there. I didn’t necessarily want to put it out there, but the more I thought about it, I was like, this could bring about some change, and we need to get it out there.”

About a week after Lewis told KPMG she was expecting, the company called and said it would pay her sponsorship in full. Lewis said it was a decision made by KPMG’s CEO Lynne Doughtie.

“They’ve felt from the get-go that I’m a part of their company,” Lewis said. “I’m a part of what they do, and they wanted to treat me like that. It 100 percent came from them.”

Lewis said once she told other sponsors, a couple of others stepped up, too.

“It was more of like a, wow, I haven’t thought of that before,” Lewis said. “It was kind of one of those things nobody has ever thought about more than anything. KPMG just kind of got everybody’s attention and got people thinking, which is what we want.”

This groundbreaking news comes amid the discussion around maternity leave in women’s sports, as Serena Williams is working her way back up the rankings in the WTA after giving birth to her daughter.

Williams, currently ranked No. 183, is a No. 25 seed at Wimbledon, which starts Monday.

“I definitely hope with what KPMG decided to do, I hope it changes the way contracts are written, that that is already included in there, where it doesn’t have to come from a CEO or whoever is making all the decisions,” Lewis said.

“Just for women in general, because I think there’s a lot of women on this tour that you basically have to say, I’m willing to give up all of my income this year to have a baby, and that’s a hard decision to make for a lot of people.

“I’m fortunate that I’m not in that position, but there’s a lot of girls that — if they don’t have income and they don’t have their status next year, that’s a big deal. I hope it changes things. I hope it changes the way contracts are written more than anything.”