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What's Next for Lexi Thompson?
When Lexi Thompson won the Navistar LPGA Classic by five shots in Alabama Sunday the LPGA Tour was suddenly thrust into, perhaps, making a decision it hoped wouldn't be posed.
Normally, when a non-member - such as Thompson - wins an LPGA event she's automatically offered membership. But the 16-year-old does not meet the minimum age of 18 required by the Tour. The Coral Gables, Fla., native played the Navistar on a sponsor's exemption.
Thompson earned enough money in 2010 - $336,472 - to qualify for automatic membership on this year's Tour, but she was only 15 at the time. After being turned down for membership because of her age, the teenager petitioned the LPGA not to waive the age requirement but to increase the number of sponsor exemptions she could accept this season.
That petition was also denied, but the Tour said the teenager could enter additional Monday qualifiers. It also granted Thompson permission to take part in the 2011 LPGA Q-School despite not meeting the minimum-age requirement. Thompson won the first-stage qualifier by 10 strokes, with two stages still to be played.
Her Navistar victory should wipe out the Q-School qualifying requirement, but the LPGA is fearful of setting a precedent of giving memberships to 16-year-olds. In the past, only Aree Song and Morgan Pressel received exemptions to the age rule, but they were 17 and on the verge of turning 18 at the time.
Yet the LPGA is also loath of denying its tour and tournament sponsors the opportunity to showcase one of the game's rising stars. What may very well take place is that Thompson, with her victory in hand, will request membership in 2012, when she will be 17 (her birthday is in February). It's likely that the LPGA will grant that request, just as it did with the previous two players, while also waiving the Q-School proviso.
After accepting the Navistar hardware and $195,000 winner's check, Thompson met with the media outside the Senator course at Capitol Hill in Prattville, Ala. The youngest tournament champion in LPGA history didn't discuss the ramifications of her win, but she did thank her family and friends and confirmed that she'll be donating a portion of her earnings to the Wounded Warriors project.
Here's what the remarkably poised 16-year-old had to say during her Q&A with reporters.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic champion, Lexi Thompson into the interview room. First off, thanks for joining us and congratulations.
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: You became the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history today. Tell me your thoughts on that and what this whole experience has been like for you.
ALEXIS THOMPSON: It's been an amazing experience for me. I can't even describe the feelings that were going through my head this whole week. I look forward to this tournament every year. The course is in amazing shape for us, so this was the best experience.
MODERATOR: You talked a little bit yesterday about going into the final round with the lead, which you had done before. What did you do last night to kind of prepare yourself? Did you kind of just relax and not think too much?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Exactly. I went to Outback for a few hours. I went with Janie Jackson and her family. You know, just talked. You know, just relaxing. I hung out with her for a few hours after and just talked and just relaxed. Talk about other things.
MODERATOR: How were the nerves on the first tee?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I was definitely a little nervous, but they were controllable. Once I hit the first tee shot I was like, All right, I'm good.
MODERATOR: Take me through the round a little bit. Kind of how were your emotions all day throughout the round?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I just really calm actually, until like Tiffany started on started on her birdie train there. Then it got a little exciting. So, you know, she got momentum going her way. It was great playing with her. It was so much fun. Just she is a great player. You know, I'm real happy for her. I just had a great time.
MODERATOR: Every little girl, including myself, who grew up and played golf dreams of winning on the LPGA Tour. What does it feel like to have that dream come true?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: It feels amazing. I can't even describe it. It's been my dream my whole life just to play out here. Getting a win right now, I can't describe the feelings, but it's the best feeling ever.
MODERATOR: Questions for Lexi.
Q. What was going through your mind as you walked up the 18th green and you're getting that big applause walking with your dad?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I loved it. Just being there with my dad, he was like, Lexi, just enjoy that walk. I am going off to the side because I might cry. You know, I definitely cried after I finished. Just finishing that with my dad on the bag, it was the best experience. I wouldn't be out here without my dad -- and my mom, of course.
Q. You are the youngest winner, but probably in your mind this win was overdue given how you contended here two years ago and took a lead into the final day earlier this year. In your mind, did this feel like it had taken a long time to happen?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Sort of, but I just went to every tournament wanting to win. Obviously you're not going to win everything and you'll have bad tournaments. You just got to keep on plugging along and take one shot at a time. That's all you can do, just live in that moment.
Q. I asked you yesterday if not having won a tournament was a hurdle to cross. You have won a tournament now. Does it make a difference psychologically or mentally or as a golfer that you're now a tournament champion?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Well, definitely it does. I have a lot more confidence now. But I'm just going to go into every tournament like I always did. You know, knowing I can win now is just a lot better of a feeling. You know, just keeping it simple and just going along.
Q. Since you won you've got to come back, you know?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Of course. I love this tournament. Why wouldn't I come back? I love this tournament. It's amazing.
Q. How many tournaments does your mother go to, if at all? And would you like her to come out here and see you every now and then for something like this? Does the thought of having her come up of having her come up with you in contention like this?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I definitely wanted her to be here. She didn't even watch. She didn't watch any live scoring or anything on TV. She usually comes to the Open; she went to the LPGA Championship; she went ShopRite. So she was like, I'm not watching you the whole day. I watched you one hole yesterday and you bogeyed it. I'm like, Okay mom. Okay. But I really do wish she was here. She watched the last hole today and that's it. I called her after. She was so excited. She was screaming. She obviously knew I won. She was like, Oh, my God I'm so proud of you. You know, typical stuff. She was scheming. I was like, All right.
Q. (No microphone.)
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I don't know what I'm doing tonight, but we're not driving back. I can tell you that. We're staying one more night here. But I don't know, when I'm home I'm celebrating. I'm getting my godparents, my mom and everybody, my friends. We're just going to hang out and celebrate. I don't know what we're doing.
Q. Also the Wounded Warriors, you decided to make a contribution with your winnings. Talk about what motivated you on that end.
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Well, I think they deserve it. They give up their lives for us, you know, saving our country. I wore the pin every day. Donating to them is just you have to. I mean, look what they do for us. It's just amazing that they do that. I definitely want to give back.
Q. If it's no too private, what did you tell your dad or what did your dad tell you after you won?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: He just said to me, he just said that I was amazing. He said, I can't believe you just did that. (Laughing.) It was really a great feeling. When I was on my second shot on 18, he was like, You know, I'm probably going to cry so I'm not going to walk up with you. I'm keeping my sunglasses on. I'm like, All right dad. I'm-mail going to cry, too. We can just cry together. But it was awesome.
Q. On the drive home with the trophy, do you like hold it the whole way?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Yeah, I'm going to cuddle it. No, just kidding. (Laughter.) I don't know where it's going to two. It's definitely going in my trophy case. I can tell I that.
Q. Will I drink a Red Bull out of it at some point?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Oh, yeah, I know, I'm going to take a picture of me just pouring it. Now, I just got to put it in a special spot in my house -- well, in my room.
Q. What does a 16-year-old do with $195,000?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I have no idea. (Laughter.) I mean, I already have a car, so I don't know what I'm going to do with it. Just going to have fun and relax and hang out with my family and celebrate.
Q. Two years ago when I were 14, we talked to your dad each day during the tournament. At the end of it, he said, We're going to start looking for someone to carry your clubs for I. Now, how long do I want him to continue to that, and do I see that going on for a little while yet?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Probably still for a little bit. We've gotten along a lot better on the golf course. I will say that. We used to fight a good amount. Now it's just so much more calm. We get along a lot better. I'm not sure. We'll probably be looking for someone eventually, but probably not right now.
Q. Your dad said you were a little bummed that you didn't finish all your rounds in the 60s. So when you missed that birdie putt at 18, were you actually a little disappointed?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Not really. I mean, it was definitely my goal to get it to 60. I obviously wanted to make it. I still won, so . . . Definitely would have been a bonus. I just enjoyed being out here. Definitely my last group was a lot of fun today.
Q. Who drives tomorrow, you or your dad, and how good of a driver are you?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I'm not driving. My dad is driving. I have my comforter in the back and my pillow. I am laying down. I pretty much bring stuff for like half the way on the way up here, watch movies.
Q. I don't know how far in the future it is, but do you want to going to college and be a pro golfer? Have you thought that far ahead, or do you want to leave the academics for later?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I haven't really thought about it that much. I'm still in high school. One more year left, so I'm definitely finishing high school. For college I haven't even thought of it. It's always there, so I can definitely always do the courses.
Q. After she had her birdie run at the end and she gets to 16 and she stuck it in there, what was going through your mind then? Three strokes; she's right in birdie range; you almost put it in. Then what was going through your mind knowing that it's game on again.
ALEXIS THOMPSON: She was definitely on a birdie roll, that's for sure. I was expecting her to make the one on 16. It was like, All right, Lexi, just you have to make this one. I was expecting her to birdie all the way in the way she was going. Just trying to make pars and make a few birdies maybe.
Q. What was the difference, do you think, in today and the times when held the lead and couldn't hang on?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I think I just took it a lot more slow today. Just stayed really calm. You know, I probably got a little fast at Avnet or here last year when I was leading. So I just slowed down my walking and just relaxed and just free swing.
Q. Is there anything you would say publicly to your dad right now?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Well, I love him, of course. Of course if it wasn't without him, I would definitely not be here. Having him on the bag and going through that experience with him, I wouldn't change it for anything.
Q. On the one end there's a lot really established golfers here. What's the kindest or most flattering words any of them have spoken to you since you won this tournament? Anything stick out?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Well, they all said, Great job after. Paula Creamer came up to me and said, "If anybody was to change the record, it was you, and it should've been you." That meant a lot. And that I deserve it. So it definitely meant a lot to me.
Q. What one shot were most proud of in your round today?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Probably -- I mean, 16 shot was good, but I obviously didn't plan to go over and play that ridge. 16 and 17 I guess were well-played holes. I just had a great time out there. Playing with Tiffany, she kept me really relaxed. It was a great group.
Q. When Tiffany (Joh) dumped the water on you, how surprising was it? Was it cold?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I wasn't surprised at all. I was like, She's probably going to do it. I didn't see the water bottle though, so she did catch me by surprise. But it actually felt pretty good. It was like, Oh, God you're all well. I didn't know you sweated that much. I'm like, Of course. It's me. I'm like, You would do that to me.
Q. (Question regarding the Will You Marry Me Lexi sign.)
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Really?
Q. What do you think when you see that from teenagers?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I heard about it. I didn't see it. I actually got a tweet yesterday saying Lexi, will you marry me. Not sure who it was. Just joking I said like, I do. But it's great to have all these fans out here. If it wasn't for them these tournaments wouldn't go along. Having the little girls out here just looking up to me, that's what I've always wanted. I just want to portray to them that I'm following my dreams.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.