Lexi Thompson became the youngest winner in the history of the LPGA when she won the Navistar LPGA Classic this September in Prattville, Ala.
At 16 years, 7 months and 8 days, Thompson crashed the previous record held by LPGA co-founder Marlene Hagge as the LPGA’s youngest tournament champion. Hagge was 18 years and 14 days when she won the 1952 Sarasota Open.
Prior to her first LPGA win, Thompson played in the first stage of LPGA Qualifying for 2012 membership. At that July event, the teen lapped the field by 10 shots. Everybody knew she could play toe to toe with the game’s best, but when no other contestant could touch her for four rounds, the spotlight shone even brighter on the young South Florida star.
So when she won the Navistar LPGA Classic two months later, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan granted 2012 membership to Thompson. The win allowed her to by-pass the next two stages of LPGA Q-school and to officially become a member of the LPGA Tour next year.
Thompson has taken this year’s highlights in stride, embracing each opportunity and accepting the outcome and results of her play throughout the season. Here are some of the things she has discussed with media leading into the start of her 2012 rookie year on the LPGA Tour:
Q. How nice was it not to have to go to the final stage of Q-school?
THOMPSON: It was definitely a good time at the first stage. I was just playing consistent golf and free-swinging it. It was nice to not have to go back to the final stage of Q-school.
Q. What was it like for you to win your first LPGA tournament?
THOMPSON: It has always been my dream to win on the LPGA and to play full time. Having my dad on the bag that week [as caddie], and sharing the experience with me was everything I could ask for. I can’t even describe the feelings I have but it’s the best feeling ever.
Q. What has your life been like since your victory?
THOMPSON: I’ve been doing a lot of media stuff, but I love traveling around doing TV shows and things like that. It has been a lot of fun for me since that tournament. This whole journey has been a blast. It has always been something I’ve wanted to do and everything has been my decision the whole way.
Q. How much have you changed as a player during the last few years?
THOMPSON: In the last few years, I have thought about course management a lot more. It’s probably changed some, but I haven’t changed the way I think over the golf ball. I don’t usually think about anything over the ball – except maybe for tempo and posture, but that’s it. I just keep it really simple. I’ve always done that, maybe because I’m more of a feel player.
Q. When your dad is caddying for you, is he more of a caddie or your dad?
THOMPSON: He’s both. He has gotten me through every tournament, even the bad shots. He has always been supportive at every tournament and with every shot I hit, so to have him on the bag that week that I won – I mean, we got pretty emotional. It was just a great experience and memory that I will never forget.
Q. Your parents have three children who are all accomplished golfers with one on the PGA Tour, one soon to be on the LPGA Tour, and one playing at a solid NCAA Division I college program. What’s the secret with you and your brothers?
THOMPSON: It helps that we live on a golf course, but my parents have given us the opportunity to play. I started with golf because I saw my brothers play. I was always watching them. It was my life. And practicing golf has never been a chore or a duty. I just love practicing. It’s been my dream my whole life just to play on the LPGA.
Q. Did it feel like it took your win a long time to happen?
THOMPSON: Sort of, but I went to every tournament wanting to win. You just have to keep plugging along and take one shot at a time. That’s all you can do – just live in that moment.
Q. How many autographs did you sign that day after you won?
THOMPSON: I have no idea, but I didn’t think they were going to stop. I love my fans. It’s just great to have all of these little girls out following me.
Q. Does it make a difference psychologically that you are now a tournament champion?
THOMPSON: Definitely it does. I have a lot more confidence now, but I’m going to go into each tournament like I always have.
Q. Have you thought about going to college while playing as a professional golfer?
THOMPSON: I haven’t really thought about it that much. I’m still in high school with one more year left. I’m definitely finishing high school.
Q. At the Navistar, you earned $195,000 as the tournament winner. What does a 16-year old do with $195,000?
THOMPSON: I have no idea. I mean, I already have a car, so I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Maybe I’ll just go have fun and relax and hang out with my family and celebrate.
Topics: Thompson, Lexi