Commentary: Time to let Lexi shine

Lexi Thompson, 15, was one of the stars of Demo Day at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Fla., on January 26, 2011.

Lexi Thompson will have a chance to be one of the girls next year. She’ll have to earn that right through several stages of LPGA Q-School, but should she land her tour card at final stage in December (and rest assured, she will), Thompson will go from being a guest star playing on a free pass to a potential marketing machine for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan.

That has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

The LPGA needs the kind of buzz that Thompson can bring. Thompson needs to get on with it before boredom sets in. At this point, it does neither party any good to wait another year. Thompson isn’t going to backtrack to a “normal” life. She made up her mind years ago. Might as well give her the chance to grow and flourish.

At 16 years old, Thompson could become the youngest card-carrying LPGA member in tour history. She’ll graduate from high school next year and continue to travel the globe with her father. Not much will change really, except that she’ll have more opportunities to compete.

Thompson tied for 10th at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open. She arrived in Colorado Springs this year fresh off of two missed cuts in June, her last coming two weeks ago at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

She’ll have a busy summer stretch, though, to find her groove, going from Colorado to the Evian Masters in France (where she tied for second last year) to either a Ricoh Women’s British Open qualifier or LPGA Q-School qualifier, depending on how well she plays this week. Players who are in the top 100 of the Rolex Rankings are exempt from first stage. Thompson is ranked 120th.

“I am normal,” Thompson said two months ago while playing in Mobile, Ala. “I just travel the world.”

Players had mixed opinions about the LPGA's decision.

"She’s good enough; she’s good enough. That’s just the way it is," Laura Davies said. "I hope I’m in the majority because it’s very shortsighted if they’re not up for it. We need all the good players we can get."

Kraft Nabisco champion Stacy Lewis expressed reservations about letting minors earn LPGA membership.

"I think kids need to be kids," she said.

It’s important that parents and juniors look at Whan’s decision objectively. This does not open the floodgates for 16-year-olds to join the LPGA. Yes, young players have traditionally fared well on this tour. But few have been given the opportunities that Thompson has had to prove she can hang with the best in the world on any given week.

The LPGA’s future does not rest on Thompson’s young shoulders. Yet there’s no question that the tour could benefit from her success, particularly with domestic sponsorships.

Thompson has proved herself to be a competent young woman. She’s not overly mature for her age, but she has the support team in place to get her to the next level. Her father, Scott, realizes that a tour card won’t necessarily mean she’ll immediately fit in.

“What can you do when you’re 16?” Scott Thompson asked last May. “Can you go to a Friday’s or a Bonefish and hang out in the bar and talk to everybody? Not when you’re 16. She’d like to be included in things to do. I think that will only get better with age.”

Like a teenage actor or an exceptionally gifted pianist, Thompson will make her mark in a grown-up world.

There are exceptions to almost every rule. Keep that in mind when considering Thompson.

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