Junior golfer Lejan Lewthwaite is one of several foreign student athletes on an internationally diverse Texas State women’s golf team, but her life before San Marcos was unlike any other.
At the age of nine, Lewthwaite began to sail with her father and participated in competitions as her parents hauled her around the coasts of South Africa, her home country. Her father, an avid sailor, and mother supported her involvement in many different sports.
“They support everything I want do,” Lewthwaite said. “When I used to sail, they used to take me to opposite ends of the country to compete.”
A decade ago, 14-year-old Lewthwaite went to Poland and manned a 77-pound dinghy, a small sailing boat often used by young sailors in competitions, in the European Boating Championships in the Baltic Sea.
“We sailed out into the ocean,” Lewthwaite said. “It was scary sometimes, but you can’t just sit and cry out in the ocean. Being young takes away a lot of your fears. I just kind of said, ‘Oh look, a shark.’ I was just fearless.”
Before ever picking up a golf club, Lewthwaite was also a tennis and field hockey player in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“I actually played tennis against Jessica Kahts (senior women’s tennis player at Texas State),” Lewthwaite said. “I won the first set, but then my racket strings broke on the only racket I had. I had to borrow somebody else’s racket and it went downhill from there.”
The junior’s tennis dreams were ended after her parents would not allow her to drop out of school and pursue a life of professional athletics. She decided in order to become a professional, she had to find a sport she could play throughout the years. Golf was that sport.
“I love sports. It is just simple,” Lewthwaite said. “Golf is a sport that you don’t have to be young to be good at.”
Lewthwaite began her golfing career on a course her cousins lived near. During some of her vacations, she would go to the golf course and was encouraged to play by her family and some South African professionals. Lewthwaite met Gavan Levenson, a well-known South African golf coach, at the Gavan Levenson Golf Academy, and three years later found herself at a Division I college.
“It is unheard of,” said Coach Mike Akers. “It is unbelievable how far she has come.”
Lewthwaite was golfing with Levenson, an uncle to Charl Schwartzel who won the Masters Golf Tournament in 2011, two times per month during her year and a half at the academy.
“I got really tired and really exhausted,” Lewthwaite said. “Golfing was my job. If my body was sore, I always went to practice. I worked hard.”
Whether in the water amongst the sharks or on a now-developed golf team, Lewthwaite knows even 9,157 miles away from home that her family will be there to support her.
“(You’ve) got to grow up,” Lewthwaite said. “It is life, and you have to learn to do things on your own. Coming here was tough because I am a very family-oriented person. One of the things that kept me going is the support of my family.”
Lewthwaite, known by many as “LJ,” has one more year with the Bobcats. She wishes to continue her now sixth year of golf and attempt to go into the LPGA to continue her childhood pursuit of becoming a professional athlete.
“She has made great strides,” Akers said. “I just think her future is great and if she wants to take her talents to the next level, then I think she can.”