LPGA star Stacy Lewis broke the news at the Masters to one of her top sponsors, KPMG: She's pregnant.

For expectant moms in America, the announcement of starting a family is met with joy but often can be a source of stress when it comes to their careers and financial stability.

For professional golfers, who rely on sponsors for much of their income, becoming pregnant and playing in fewer tournaments alters a contract designed to pay according to how often she plays.

"A lot of women on this tour basically have to say, 'I'm willing to give up all my income this year to have a baby,' " Lewis said Wednesday, a day before the KPMG Women's PGA Championship begins at Kemper Lakes in northwest suburban Kildeer. "That's a hard decision to make. I'm fortunate I'm not in that position, but there's a lot of girls, if they don't have income and they don't have their (LPGA playing) status next year, that's a big deal."

KPMG and Lewis are setting a good example. And it should set a new standard for female athletes.

A week after Lewis, 33, revealed her pregnancy, KPMG officials called to say they would fulfill her entire contract year no matter how many tournaments she played. That's unheard of _ even in 2018.

"I hope it brings attention to it and changes the way contracts are written," said Lewis, who is due Nov. 3 with her first child, a girl. "It should be a standard, and I hope that's what changes."

She doesn't want it to depend on the goodwill of one company's CEO _ in this case, KPMG's Lynne Doughtie.

Lewis said some of her other sponsors followed suit and amended their contracts, although she said the others did not want to be mentioned.

If there was ever a time for a corporate sponsor to toot its own horn without seeming obnoxious and greed-motivated, this would be it. The more companies that choose to deliver fair contracts to female athletes who take maternity leave, the more pressure it puts on others to do the same.

And maybe this will help create expectations for what working mothers outside of athletics deserve too.

Only 12 percent of non-government U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employer, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. One in four women return to work within 10 days of childbirth, according to PL+US, a nonprofit that advocates for more extensive paid leave.

I remember _ as embarrassing as it is to admit to my naivete _ learning these statistics in astonishment when I was pregnant. I texted a friend who is a mom and asked, "Why aren't women rioting in the streets?"

"A lot of people were shocked to learn that that had never happened before (with a sponsor contract)," Lewis said. "Players 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 thought it was unbelievable. At the same time, it was, 'Well, why don't they do that?' "

Wednesday's events at the Women's PGA were focused on women's leadership, with speakers such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, retired U.S. Navy Adm. Michelle Howard and Olympic hockey player Hilary Knight. But Lewis' message _ she made a video about pay equality for the leadership summit at Kemper Lakes _ might have been the most inspirational and impactful.

She has previously called the pay gap between male and female golfers "frustrating." The purse this week is $3.65 million, with the winner earning $547,500. The closest equivalent men's tournament, the PGA Championship, has a $10.5 million purse and $1.89 million winner's share.

It's a battle also waged by the U.S. women's soccer team. Tennis is one of the few sports in which men and women are paid equally in major tournaments.

"My greatest hope is that my daughter, when she's 18 and 20 years old, doesn't have to talk about making the same amount of money as her brother," Lewis said. "We're trying to change the way women are thought about in the business world, the way they're thought about in the athletics field."

Lewis is doing that just by competing while pregnant. The winner of 14 LPGA tournaments, including two majors, Lewis is 31st in the current world rankings. The Women's PGA will be her last major before childbirth.

She's helping continue to change the perception of what pregnant women are physically capable of achieving.

Serena Williams was celebrated for winning the 2017 Australian Open when she was eight weeks pregnant. Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics while six weeks pregnant. Canadian Olympic curler Kristie Moore won silver in 2010 when she was five months pregnant. Nancy Lopez, Juli Inkster, Laura Diaz and others played LPGA events while pregnant.

Lewis said she has picked the brains of moms who are pro golfers. They've advised her about balancing baby's sleep schedule and mom's golf schedule.

She's trying to figure out when she will return after childbirth, possibly aiming for events in January or March. She isn't sure how much international play she can fit in.

But Lewis intends to keep playing _ and setting an example.

"I want my kids, even though they may not even remember it, to know that they were a part of my career," she said. "I don't want to retire and then have kids. I want to do it all at the same time, and I want to show that it can be done. It's not such a bad thing."

 

Shannon Ryan is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune/TNS.