LPGA Denies Thompson's Petition

The LPGA Tour has turned down Alexis Thompson's request to receive more sponsor's invitations in the upcoming season.

In early December the 15-year-old American prodigy petitioned the Tour for "limited membership" and a doubling of the Tour's maximum of six sponsor exemptions to 12.

"After careful consideration . . . I have decided to deny that request for 2011," said commissioner Mike Whan in a statement on Friday. "Lexi has remarkable skills for a 15-year-old, and if she continues to grow and develop, I believe that she should have a great future both on and off the golf course.

"This season, Lexi still will be able to secure up to six sponsor exemptions for LPGA-sanctioned events, and also may choose to pursue additional playing opportunities through our 'open' Monday qualifier format."

Thompson's petition was met with consternation when it was announced. "She's a good player, but she's very young," Cristie Kerr said last month. "Exemptions are a sponsor's thing, yeah, but at the same time, we have to protect the integrity of the tour. I wouldn't expect that would be done. She wants to try and play on our tour, and you know, she's 15 years old or 16 years old, and she's not even really got her high school education complete yet.

"So that was her decision to turn pro early, and, yeah, she's a great player, but she's also very young. And you know, that's the rule, six exemptions. It's to protect the rest of the people that are members that need to get those exemptions sometimes."

With his decision, Whan apparently heard the pleas from the Tour's regular members, many of whom struggle to compete in as many as 12 events a season because of limited fields and the economic downturn. The LPGA, which released its 2011 schedule earlier this month following several delays due to unsecured tournament sponsors and sites, will have 25 events this year, with only 13 in the U.S.

"Those (rank-and-file) players can't make a living," Kerr told reporters in late December. "The economic landscape that we're in right now doesn't allow that to happen. We're not in 1994 any more."

Thompson burst onto the national scene when, as a 12-year-old in 2007, she became the youngest player to ever qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. She made her professional debut last June in the ShopRite LPGA Classic, but missed the cut. In 2010 the Florida teenager competed in eight events, six through sponsor exemptions and two via qualifying.

Thompson, with her six LPGA sponsor exemptions and possible berths in two majors that will not count against her total, could easily reach more than 10 tournament starts if she succeeds in the Monday qualifiers.