Alexis Thompson versus the LPGA
By bkuehn1952 on 12/10/10
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Brian Kuehn didn't disappoint. This is his 8th article to oobgolf. He's probably going to expect to be on our payroll soon... You can read the other 7 here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Not many of us follow the LPGA. Fewer still may know who Alexis Thompson is. However, I recently read that the opening salvo was fired from the Alexis Thompson camp at the LPGA in what may ultimately turn out to be a costly legal battle. The LPGA requires women to attain the age of 18 prior to applying for membership. Ms. Thompson will not be 16 until next February. In 2010, Alexis was able to play a limited schedule thanks to 6 sponsor exemptions (the maximum allowed by the LPGA). Putting these exemptions to good use, she was able to accrue over $300,000 in earnings, which would have placed her in the top 25 on the LPGA money list.

Ms. Thompson’s handler (gee, wouldn’t that be nice to have as a 15 year old, a “handler”) was quoted as saying the Thompson team has petitioned the LPGA for 12 sponsor exemptions in 2011. It was indicated that Alexis does not wish to be an LPGA member but does desire an opportunity to test her game against professionals on a more frequent basis.

Alexis is certainly a precocious golfer, having first garnered attention by qualifying for the Women’s US Open at the age of 12 (beating the old record held by Michelle Wie). Like Michelle Wie before her, Ms. Thompson’s resume in major amateur events is a bit lacking, with only one USGA title (Girl’s Junior). Most of her professional success occurred in two 2010 events: The Evian Championship (T2 - $242,711) and 2010 USGA Woman’s Open (T10 - $72,131).

It may turn out that Alexis Thompson will rewrite the records books for women’s golf someday but I think she has gotten poor advice. I do not know the Thompson family, who chose to home school Alexis and one of her brothers. However, it is interesting that while both her older brothers have elected to attend college on golf scholarships, she and her family seem to think college is not something that will benefit her.

People close to Alexis indicate she is a mature and determined young woman. Of course, most of those offering up that opinion appear to have some financial interest in her success on the golf course. Considering her home- schooled background and age, it is hard to believe she is as worldly as everyone would have us believe. She may very well have traveled the world. However, the travel was undoubtedly within a cocoon of family and friends who chauffeured her between hotel and golf course.

Everyone is unique. The failure of one over-exposed teen, Michelle Wie, certainly does not mean Alexis Thompson will fail. Still, the parallels are striking. A young amateur bursts on the scene. She wins a USGA title and comes close to success in professional tournaments while still an amateur. Quick to capitalize on her notoriety, the teen turns professional, hires professional handlers, while her family maintains tight control over her career. The only question now is whether some initial success as a professional might too quickly turn to mediocrity if she fails to improve.

So what should the LPGA do? They are starving for a superstar and Alexis Thompson just may be the answer. If the past is any guide, shredding LPGA rules is not much of a hurdle. One has only to note the recent elimination of the “born a woman” rule. Still, one hopes they show some spine and set a precedent for all the young girls (and their parents) who in the future might think about a premature entry into the world of professional golf. The LPGA should nicely tell Ms. Thompson and her handlers that the 6 exemption rule stands. When she approaches her 17th birthday, she can petition for early entry into the LPGA Qualifying School where, if she qualifies, she may then become a member of the LPGA. Until then, she might want to think about the advice she received in turning professional at 15 and whether that advice in fact turned out to be good or bad – oh, and maybe get that learners permit.

This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
Very well done article, Brian. I agree. While Lexi's game is physically mature enough for the tour and (i saw her last year at the women's US Open - tallest damn 14/15 year old i ever seen and she hits it a mile) i too dont think she's quite got the mental game or the actual maturity to handle life on the tour just yet. I think college golf could have really benefitted from her game and i think her game could have benefitted from college golf. If she stayed in it a while, she could have been the tiger woods of the ladies tour. That's what they're looking for anyway, isn't it? To say she'll definitely fail is wrong - you're right on , but still, she does have a lot of growing up to do and she might just turn out to be one of those young burnouts that the parents pushed too hard and too fast.
mjaber says:
Why not join the Futures Tour, or Euro Tour? I agree that she shouldn't have turned pro at 15, should have gone to college, but if she wants "pro" experience, why not find a pro tour that would allow her membership, instead of asking for special treatment?
Kurt the Knife says:
Her parents obviously value cash over character/education for her.
Too bad.
Good luck, kid.
oobscott2 says:
i think she should turn pro and take the money. what's the point of going to college and getting a degree if you aren't going to use it to get a job? and if her game ever went south, she would have accumulated enough money by that point to easily pay for a college degree, if she even wanted to do that. She could probably just retire after a few decent seasons if she wanted to
Duke of Hazards says:
Good article. There's definitely personal value (i.e.- life experience) in going to college besides getting a degree. Sucks that she's surrounded by a bunch of vultures, but appears they're angling to groom her into the prototype corporate athlete.

That being said, money talks and the LPGA's desperation for viewership will roll out the red carpet for her.
Beekeeper45 says:
I think the LPGA should stick to the rules of age requirement, she should have never been given any exemption to play and or accepted any money, those that have a monitary intrest in her playing should have asked themselves...what if..
Werepuppie says:
Did someone just say the LPGA should stick to it's rules?Your joking right?They just let people born as men into their events.They have zero integrity,and less spine.If the LPGA players can deal with a man in their events,surely they can handle a 15yr old female.
What is all this talk about going to college?If she has one decent year on tour she can make more money than she would make in a lifetime with any college degree.
srogers13 says:
Heck, she could sign an endorsement contract with Nike or someone and make more money than she would with a college degree. I have zero problems with someone with the talent to try to get money they feel they can earn. I can see with the archaic NCAA rules why she would not want to deal with playing college golf (see some the crap that Tiger had to put up with.) Plus, it is not like she can't play as a pro, and go to college if she wants, like Michelle Wie is doing now. How do you think she would feel if she did not turn pro, did not get money from endorsement and stuff, and then suffered some major injury?
askarzy says:
Can't agree more with imasmrtazz, lol. If she is talented enough to be in the top 25 on the money list, then why shouldn't she be able to play on tour...Not sure what the people running the LPGA have been doing lately.
snuffyword says:
For some of us, college is more than just getting a degree or education to be more successful in the future. There are experiences that are memorable and priceless. However, it boils down to what Alexis wants to do with her life. It's her and her family's decision for her future. If it's money or competition against the best or whatever, so be it. As for the LPGA or any other organization, they have their rules and policies that should be adhered to. Players can always ask for exceptions, exemptions, changes in the rules, etc. That doesn't mean they get what they ask for but they can try. But since we live in such a litigious society, time and money will be spent (and wasted) just so that everybody involved can try to make more money. Personally, I just want to see good golf and I can wait a couple of more years to see Alexis be a full LPGA member and play a full schedule. I have my own game to worry about.
munk24 says:
Michelle Wie a failure? She has had her moments and maybe not lived up to what she and some press have predicted but shes won two LPGA events while going to school at Stanford. Shes till only 20 and drives a Kia :) One of Alexis brothers is on the PGA tour and I really dont know if she would get that much out of college golf, Maybe she should do what Wie is doing, go to school to get some normalcy in her life, but play with the big girls.
munk24 says:
By the way she finished T22 in the Ladies European Tour Dubai Event this weekend.
bkuehn1952 says:
@munk24: You are correct that Michelle Wie is not a failure when compared to the average female professional golfer. She has had some solid results lately. However, her premature professional debut may have resulted in some of the mental lapses, bad press and injuries she experienced early in the process. If she had waited a bit, maybe she could have come out of Stanford and turned the golf world on its ear.
munk24 says:
@bkuehn, I agree with your premise, you just said that she was a failure. whether it was overhype by the press herself or parents, shes accomplished so much. From what I have read she is very grounded, very well liked by her golfing peers and non-golfing peers. Her blog "A Black Flamingo" shows her diverse interests. That she would go to Stanford instead of totally immersing herself in a pro golf career shows me maturity beyond her years. Of course, having a lot of money up front may have made those decisions easier. Most of our top college golfers over the past few years are not making a big impact on the LPGA tour so those suggesting that playing college golf helps their career are probably off base. When you have supreme talent the only way to improve is to challenge yourself against the best. but after getting off my soap box, it was a good article and had a lot of valod points.
munk24 says:
Oh, meant to link her blog
tpcgolfer says:
I have known Lexi since she was 4 years old. She is a mature delightful 15 year old who has absolutely no interest in college. She is focused on being the best golfer she can be (which could be quite good). Her family is not pushing her at all, and could care less about money. Her decision to go professional was made after she played with Karrie Webb and Jiyay Shin in the Womans Australian Master's last year. She felt she was ready, therefore the decision.
Michelle Wie's amateur career pales compares to Lexi's. Not only did Lexi win the Girls Amateur but also was a semifinalist in the Women's open, won the Junior PGA and numerous Agga tournaments. All Michelle ever won was the USGA Publinx.
. The decision to not increase her exemptions but allow her to Monday qualify was a good one and I do predict that she will get into tournaments this way.
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