DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The first stage of LPGA Q-School is in the books, and Lexi Thompson made it look a little too easy.
With a four-day total of 23-under 265, Thompson was 10 shots better than runner-up Mitsuki Katahira.
“It was a fun week,” Thompson said. “It was a great experience for me, like every other tournament.”
Thompson, 16, had petitioned the LPGA for membership, and commissioner Mike Whan granted her request, allowing her to enter the annual qualifying tournament. Should she earn her tour card, she would become a tour member. LPGA rules state that a player must be at least 18 years old to become a member. Players younger than 18 must get the tour’s approval for membership.
The LPGA has granted membership to 17-year-olds on a limited basis. Jessica Korda, Morgan Pressel and Aree Song were granted membership at age 17, but all turned 18 during their rookie seasons; petitions by eventual major winners Yani Tseng and Inbee Park were denied.
Thompson doesn’t turn 18 until 2013. She would be the first player to start her rookie year before age 17. Her 17th birthday is Feb. 10, 2012.
For four days, LPGA International near the tour headquarters was a playground for the long-hitting Thompson, who shot four consecutive rounds in the 60s (66-66-66-67). When Thompson pulled out driver Friday, she typically had only wedge into the green.
As usual, Thompson’s father Scott was on the bag for his daughter. After Lexi putted out on 18, he was ecstatic about what lies ahead for the American star-in-waiting.
“Her ball-striking could not have been much better this week,” said Scott Thompson, whose oldest son Nicholas is on the Nationwide Tour and other son Curtis is an incoming freshman at LSU. “She was under par again, and that will give her confidence, which is what you need for this game.”
On the final day of Stage I, Thompson looked calm and collected. Never once did the teenager trying to become a member of the LPGA look like she didn’t belong. Thompson communicated well with her father and approached each shot separately, never getting ahead of herself.
Entering Q-School, the Thompson camp was concerned with Lexi’s ball-striking. After 72 holes of near-flawless golf, it appears as if Thompson has fixed any concerns.
“It was tough hitting it straight for a while there,” she said. “Now, I have forgotten about that and have been concentrating on target and tempo, and more compact of a swing.”
Her father, on hand for each shot, took notice, as well.
“We just found her game two weeks ago,” Scott Thompson said. “We think we have fixed what was going on, but it took a long time to fix it.”
Thompson and the top 50 and ties from Stage 1 will head to Stage 2 of Q-School on Sept. 27-30 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla. Her next event is the Women’s Irish Open next week, followed by exemptions into three LPGA events before Stage 2 of Q-School.
The top 70 and ties from Stage II will advance into the 90-hole Q-School finals on Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at LPGA International. At stake will be a yet-to-be determined number of cards for the 2012 LPGA Tour.