RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Morgan Pressel isn’t a little girl anymore. Need proof? Just ask her about the location of her engagement ring during a round of golf.
At this point, a conversation ensues that involves a tone sugggesting this reporter might be borderline insane.
“I don’t take that ring off,” she says, laughing, and going on to explain that she doesn’t need to cut a hole in her golf glove to wear it on the course. The glove finger is made of mesh, so the added bulk fits just fine.
Pressel opened her eighth Kraft Nabisco Championship on Thursday with a 1-over 73. She’s five years removed from winning the title here to become the youngest major winner in LPGA history, and at 23, concedes the numbers of times she has played this event is “kind of crazy.”
There’s another number that showed Pressel’s age a little this year: 17. That’s the age of her first-round playing partner Lexi Thompson, another South Florida-born young phenom who has carved out the beginning of a successful pro career long before her peers.
“Playing with Lexi was fun, watching her youthful style and care-free attitude out there,” Pressel said. “It was fun to play alongside her and kind of reminisce about my first year out here.”
Pressel doesn’t exactly fit into the young-phenom category anymore. For one thing, she now carries the title of fiancée after becoming engaged to boyfriend Andy Bush. She has made three Solheim Cup appearances and has two career LPGA victories since that first trip to Mission Hills.
“A lot has changed, but I still enjoy coming out here just as much as I did the first time,” Pressel said.
Thompson’s rookie year, meanwhile, is just getting started. The teenager is a card-holding member of the LPGA for the first time this year, but says it doesn’t feel any different, especially in terms of how she’s viewed by Pressel and other peers.
“I don’t think they treat me any differently,” said Thompson, who opened with an even-par 72. “They’ve treated me well since I got out here.”
Thompson had never played a tournament round with Pressel until the Kraft, but said she got to know her better while playing in the tournament that Pressel annually hosts to raise money for breast-cancer research.
“We became pretty good friends,” Thompson said.
But if there’s a lesson to be learned from Pressel and Thompson, it’s that age really is just a number. Thompson may be starting a professional career, but her former junior-golf opponents are well-represented in this field. Jaye Marie Green, 18, earned a sponsor exemption while Alison Lee, 17, played her way into the field through a junior qualifier.
“It’s a little weird just knowing I played a lot of junior golf with them and seeing them, but they’re obviously great players and they’re playing really well here,” Thompson said.
Then there’s Charley Hull, a 16-year-old from England who, after carding a 1-under 71 early Thursday morning, called Thompson one of her favorite LPGA players.
That comment made Thompson smile.