LPGA players empathize with Lexi Thompson's social media struggle

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

LPGA players empathize with Lexi Thompson's social media struggle

LPGA Tour

LPGA players empathize with Lexi Thompson's social media struggle

By

DALY CITY, Calif. – Amy Olson didn’t look at social media for two days after the backstopping controversy blew up in Thailand in February. When she finally opened up Twitter on her way to the airport, it was the first time she’d ever seen the ugly side of social media directed at her.

Anger and frustration were followed by heartbreak.

“You can live every day of your life in a certain way and then simply by an accusation, all of that’s gone?” asked Olson. “That’s not fair.”

Olson never shut down her social media. She addressed the accusation of cheating the next day and relied on her faith to find peace.

But Olson, a 26-year-old from Oxbow, N.D., has a heart for what led Lexi Thompson to say last weekend she’s taking a break from social media.

“I looked at the comments that have been on Lexi’s posts,” said Olson. “It’s horrible. She can’t post anything. If she posts her putting, it’s ‘You should be working on your swing.’ If she’s in the gym, ‘You should be practicing.’ If she’s on the beach, ‘You should play more.’ There’s always something to criticize.”

And that doesn’t even cover what Thompson endured after the four-stroke penalty at the ANA or after a round of golf with President Donald Trump.

LPGA players engage more with their followers than most athletes. Some genuinely like to do it, but most understand that it’s necessary for the success of the tour and their personal brands.

“I think we take it more personally because we try to be super close with our fans,” said Brittany Lincicome. “We try to reply back to their messages and keep it more interactive. Sometimes you just can’t, I guess.”

Lincicome found herself in a bit of a social media uproar after a comment she made about hoping that Trump would skip the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open. Many took Lincicome’s quote to mean that she was anti-Trump. The non-political Lincicome instead meant that she wanted the week to be about LPGA players and not the president.

Lincicome found it impossible not to take the comments personally.

“I literally just blocked the people that were negative and tried to let it calm down after a week,” said Lincicome. “People forget about it so quickly.”

Stacy Lewis actually deleted her Twitter account in 2013 after she received backlash over comments she made about the way fans treated her in China and Shanshan Feng’s lucky shot on the final hole.

If the same thing happened today, Lewis said she wouldn’t delete her account or announce that she was taking a break. She’d just stay off of social media for a while until things died down.

“You just have to develop a thicker skin if you’re going to do it and be in the limelight,” said Lewis, who doesn’t post much compared to many of her peers.

Her advice to Thompson: “Post what you want to post, but don’t read the responses.”

Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson react on the 10th green during the second day of The Solheim Cup international golf tournament at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in 2017. (Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

Cristie Kerr is happy that the pressures of social media weren’t a thing during the first half of her career.

“Even though I’ve won 20 times, 21 with a Euro tour victory, I don’t consider myself one of the popular golfers out here,” said Kerr. “It is a bit of a glamour contest in some respects.”

The pressure many players feel to not just post, but to post content that drives the clicks that leads to dollars, can be a difficult and uncomfortable road to travel.

“The society wants that now,” said Kerr. “A lot of girls out here feel like they need to chase that, like they have to be uber-sexy, can’t just be a golfer, athlete, mom kind of persona. You have to become this other thing.”

This is one of the hardest times for LPGA players to get sponsors, Kerr notes, even for Hall of Famers.

“Social media gives agents and marketing people a number,” said Lewis.

But the more followers a player has and the more she engages, the more couch potato critics and crazies emerge.

Ryann O’Toole has no problem hitting the block button on her social media accounts. One of the fittest players on tour, O’Toole uses Instagram to share instructional tips on the golf course and in the gym.

“There’s a lot of times that it’s like, I could really just take a bikini shot or post me working out in a sports bra and I’d get a lot more hits,” said O’Toole, “but it’s just not me.”

Thompson said in her latest Instagram post that her management team would be taking over her account for a while.

O’Toole said maybe it’s time that all of Thompson’s posts flow through management. Thompson can still take the pictures and write what she wants, but let someone else put it online. That way she can avoid all the comments.

Of course, that also means that she misses out on all the good stuff too. Thompson is one of the most fan-friendly players on the LPGA. Her platform matters, and she knows it.

She’ll be back.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home