NEWARK, N.J. – Days after missing a chance to become the youngest winner in LPGA history, Alexis Thompson sounded like your ordinary teenager.
She giggled between questions, and she called having a share of the lead entering the final round of the Avnet LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala., a great experience.
And like most 16-year-olds, she was well past shooting a waterlogged, final-round 6-over-par 78 that dropped her from the top of the leaderboard into a tie for 19th in a span of four, frustrating hours.
That’s golf. One day your swing is flawless and then next, well …
Thompson was in Galloway Township, N.J., Tuesday for media day of the ShopRite LPGA Classic, where she received a sponsor’s exemption for next month’s 54-hole event on the Bay Course at Seaview, just outside of Atlantic City.
Thompson made her professional debut as a 15-year-old at this tournament last year and missed the cut by four strokes.
“There was a lot going on that week, from going from the Curtis Cup straight to here,” said Thompson, who says she prefers to be called ‘Lexi.’ “The excitement of being a pro, it was huge. This time, it will be a lot more calm.”
This past weekend was anything but calm for Thompson. She shot a 5-under 67 in the third round Saturday to take a share of the Avnet lead with Song-Hee Kim. Along the way, she put herself on the doorstep of LPGA history.
Paula Creamer is the youngest winner of a multi-round LPGA event, winning the 2005 Sybase Classic at 18 years, 9 months, 17 days.
Thompson would have shattered that mark had she won Sunday, being 16 years, 2 months, 21 days. However, her round started and ended with bogeys and her ball found the water on two holes on the back nine in a disastrous round.
“It was just an off day, off golf, I guess,” Thompson said in a telephone interview. “That’s what happened. I really don’t know what happened to my game. Instead of taking a lot of stuff out of it, I took it as one bad day, and everybody has it.”
Thompson said she wouldn’t trade the experience. Having a share of the lead was great and playing with Kim in the final group was a thrill. Things just didn’t go the way she wanted in the tournament that was won by Maria Hjorth.
“I was a little frustrated,” Thompson said. “I am not going to say that I had good dreams (the night after). But it was all right. I have to keep reminding myself, it’s just a game and people have those days.”
Thompson is too young to play full-time on the LPGA tour, so her playing opportunities are limited. She can get six sponsor’s exemptions annually and she can qualify for both the U.S. Women’s Open and the British Women’s Open. The Florida native can also try to qualify for tournaments in Monday qualifiers.
Thompson had petitioned the LPGA for 12 exemptions this year, but commissioner Mike Whan denied it.
Since turning professional in June, Thompson has earned $351,187 with her best finish being a tie for second in the Evian Masters in France, an event she calls the highlight of her career.
Thompson made a nice par-saver on the final hole to retain a share of the lead, but Jiyai Shin of South Korea birdied it to take the title.
Thompson has no regrets about her decision to turn pro, even if it means playing in fewer tournaments than she would like.
“Everything is a thrill,” said the home-schooled teenager who uses her father, Scott, to caddie. “I am not traveling as much as I used to and I am playing one or two times a month. I used to play a bunch as an amateur, so when I go to every event I am really fired up and excited to play.”
Looking forward, she says she needs to improve her consistency.
“I have improved a lot in my putting and overall my attitude on the course,” she said. “It is definitely getting better. I’m really close, if I keep working on it.”