Remembering PGA Tour Winner J.L. Lewis

J.L. Lewis reached the PGA Tour in the mid-1990s — and well intos his 30s — after years of trying to get there while working club jobs. The wait was worth it when he finally won in 1999. And then he won again.

Full name: John Lee Lewis

Date of birth: July 18, 1960

Place of birth: Emporia, Kansas

Date and place of death: December 31, 2019, in Austin, Texas

Lewis' Biggest Wins

Lewis won twice on the PGA Tour: He also won two Southern Texas PGA Championships in the early 1990s, plus the 1999 Honda Invitational in Mexico.

Lewis In the Majors

Lewis played in major championships 14 times, first in 1993 and last in 2005. He played The Masters and British Open only once each, the U.S. Open and PGA Championship multiple times. He had no Top 10 finishes. His best finish in a major was a tie for 21st in the 1999 PGA Championship.

More About J.L. Lewis

Lewis began playing golf at age 7 at his hometown Emporia Country Club. By the end of high school, Lewis was a prep All-American and a 2-time men's club championship winner.

He started his college golf career at Emporia State University, but transferred to Texas State University for his final two years. In his senior season, Texas State won the NCAA Division II National Championship, with Lewis finishing runner-up individually and earning All-America honors.

He turned professional in 1984 and worked as a club pro into the early 1990s at The Hills of Lakeway Golf & Country Club in Austin, Texas; Las Vegas Country Club in Nevada; and Forest Creek Golf Club back in the Austin area. Lewis was named his PGA Section Player of the Year four times during that period.

In 1994, Lewis played for the victorious Team USA in the PGA Cup (a Ryder Cup-style tournament for club professionals from the U.S. and Great Britain/Ireland).

Lewis first played the PGA Tour in 1989, but didn't become a full-time tour player until 1995. (He also played in many Korn Ferry Tour events in early 1990s as well as 1996-97.)

After making it back onto the PGA Tour in 1998, Lewis got his first career victory in the 1999 John Deere Classic. He beat Mike Brisky on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff after birdying the 72nd hole to get into the playoff.

Lewis' career-best finish on the PGA Tour money list was 28th in 2003, the year in which he had his second and final win plus six top 10s finishes total.

Lewis was never one of the top tour players, but for around 10 years he played the PGA Tour full-time. He finished in the top 125 (meaning he kept his card) on the money list every year from 1998 through 2005, and missed in 2006 because he suffered knee and elbow injuries.

All told, Lewis played 353 PGA Tour tournaments, most of them from his late 30s on. In addition to his two wins, Lewis was runner-up twice (at the 2002 Buick Invitational and 2004 John Deere Classic) and had 23 Top 10 finishes. His last PGA Tour appearance was in 2011.

After turning 50, Lewis played the Champions Tour in 2010, 2011 and 2012, with three Top 10 finishes in 40 career starts. Unfortunately, Lewis' 2012 season ended in June, after nine starts, when he began treatment for multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer.

Lewis was never able to return to the tour, but spent his remaining years returning to golf instruction. That included authoring one book, The Pocket Pro Edition of Golf Tips from the Tour.

Lewis lost his battle with cancer in 2019, dying at age 59.

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