Not that she really needs that much of an introduction but 16 year old Lexi Thompson has grabbed the attention of the golf world with a convincing 17 under par victory this week in the LPGA Navistar Classic against a very strong field. In becoming the youngest ever to win an LPGA event, she had built a 5 shot lead shooting 66-68-67 in the first three rounds and cruised home with a solid 70 to win $200,000 in her first professional victory.
This is the same Lexi Thompson who played her first U.S. Women’s Open at 12, was a standout on the women’s Curtis Cup team in 2010 going 4-0-1 in five matches, finished second in the Evian Masters last year, and led the LPGA Avnet Classic after three rounds earlier this year. She got a golfing pedigree growing up playing against her two brothers, Nicholas who plays on the PGA Tour and Curtis who goes to LSU. Home schooled she has been determined to stake a spot on the LPGA tour since she turned professional at age 15.
Her performance in this week’s event shows she is ready to compete with the best in the world. Besides beating seasoned pros like Paula Creamer by 10 and Yani Tseng by 14, she just dominated the course statistically. She combined an average driving distance for the week of 275 yards with an 88% greens in regulation percentage-that has to lead to lots of birdie opportunities. Her putting was sound at under 30 putts a round so she converted a boat load of them. And maybe most important for the LPGA Tour starving for popularity in the biggest golf market in the world, she’s blond, attractive, and an American.
Problem is that the LPGA has a pesky rule that you cannot be a member until you are 18 years old. One has to believe that Mike Whan, the commish, will come to some kind of accommodation to allow Lexi to cash in on this victory and claim her LPGA card. He was already inclined to this by giving her a waiver earlier this year to earn her card by playing in the Tour Q-School. She is dominating the first stage played earlier this summer shooting four rounds in the 60s and leads by ten shots.
In all likeliness Whan will offer to waive the age requirement and grant her that LPGA Card if she defers her claim until the start of next season when she will be 17. This way the tour can save some face by only wavering a year on the 18 year old requirement. For Lexi this makes sense since having her card now would only get her into the season ending CME Group Titleholders event in which she has already earned a spot from this Navistar victory.
If they could only figure out a way to get her on the Solheim Cup squad for next week- now that would be a coup. I am sure Paula or Morgan would love to pard in the foursomes with Lexi’s driving distance.