Lexi Thompson couldn’t tell you how many autographs she signs in a year.
As one of the most recognizable players on the LPGA Tour, it’s understandable that she’d lose track of how many thousands of times she writes her name on gloves, balls, hats and pin flags throughout the course of a single season. She’s even signed a golf bag or two, as well as a few pairs of golf shoes over the years.
The ironic part is that some people can’t even tell that it’s her signature, as Alexis Thompson doesn’t immediately ring a bell for most women’s golf fans.
“Alexis Thompson isn't the shortest of names, but I haven't perfected Lexi yet. So, I'm gonna just stick with Alexis Thompson,” said Thompson of her signature. “Everybody sees that and is like, ‘Who’s the A?’ And I’m like, ‘That’s me.’ I just haven’t gotten the L down. I've signed Alexis since I was in the car going to my first U.S. Women's Open, so I'm sticking with it.”
But no matter how she plays, kids and adults alike still clamor for signatures from and selfies with Thompson, desperate to have a brief interaction with one of the game’s modern icons. And she entertains each and every one of them, knowing that those 10- to 15-second connections for an autograph or photo op will have a lasting impact on a spectator and likely make them a fan of the LPGA Tour for years to come.
And it’s what she does during pre-tournament pro-ams that matters, too. You’ll rarely – if ever – see Thompson turn down an opportunity to play in the weekly events that have been fixtures around LPGA Tour tournaments since the organization’s inception in 1950.
So, it wasn’t a surprise that Thompson was named the recipient of the 2023 Founders Award, an honor given to an LPGA member who, in the opinion of her peers, represents the spirit, ideals and values of the organization through her behavior and deeds, both on and off the golf course.
"It means the world to me, not only to receive the (Founders Award) but just to have the respect of my fellow players out there. And just showing that there's more to it than the golf side of things,” said Thompson of the honor. “It's a matter of caring for the sponsors, your fellow competitors, and giving back to the game instead of all about winning and performing well. That's what means the most to me."
Thompson has always considered her career to be about more than just golf. Growing up in the spotlight, the 28-year-old recognizes her place in the game and wants to use the platform she’s been given to grow it in any way possible, whether that be through the countless autographs she signs after tournaments or the kids she pulls under the ropes while she’s playing, or the causes she has given her time to, or even through her appearance in the Shriners Children’s Open in October.
She hopes to be a role model for young players to look up to and wants to do as much for golf as it’s done for her in an effort to leave the game better than she found it when the time does come for her to step away.
“I'm very focused on my golf game as well. But I love to give back and see the fans out there and interact with all volunteers. That's how my mom raised me,” said Thompson. “I always just try to make somebody else's day better or put a smile on their face over myself. Could be a blessing and a curse, but honestly, it makes me feel better about myself if I make somebody else happier. That's what we're all trying to do. We're trying to grow the game and LPGA.”
Thompson also realizes that on-course accomplishments tend to be fleeting. People won’t always remember how many titles you took home or what majors you won, or how many birdies you made at this or that course.
But they will remember how you treated them.
If you took five seconds out of your day to flash them a smile, or sign a flag, or take a photo, those moments will always be cherished, talked about at dinner tables and over drinks for a lot longer than a career might last. It’s those little things that make the most difference, that create lifelong LPGA Tour fans, that would make the Founders proud.
And as her career has progressed, that’s how Thompson now measures her worth on a golf course. Not by scores, wins or well-struck golf shots, but rather by how she makes people feel and the impact that she can make with a simple handshake or a “thank you” on both the good days and the bad.
“I'm a competitor. I want to win more than anybody and everybody out there as everybody does, but there's more to it,” said Thompson. “Nancy Lopez, for example, she's my biggest role model besides my mother, and everybody says how amazing of a person she is. Over all of her accomplishments, they say how great she is to the fans, to the sponsors and how she's given back. I think that goes way further than accomplishments.
“My mom always says, ‘It doesn't matter what you accomplish, you're no better than anybody else. Some days, I go out there, and if I'm playing bad, I'm like, I'm going to thank every volunteer that's out there, just for being out there and helping. It goes such a long way, more than any win or good shot, because you put a smile on their face and made their day better.”