by Jeff Skinner
I know we are all quick to christen the next big thing in golf. Over the years many gifted young golfers were burdened with the “he’s the next Nicklaus” and now it’s “the next Tiger” although that one may be a bit tainted now. Still, when a young phenom lights up the competition and does things that older golfers struggle with it is easy to think that this one is the one, the next big thing.
Alexis Thompson is without a doubt the next big thing, or at least deserving of that title. Whether or not she fulfills her massive potential remains to be played out over the next few years but for right now, this young woman is the real deal and she is only fifteen years old.
Yes, she had an impressive amateur career with a slew of wins and set the record for the youngest golfer to ever qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open at 12 years and 4 months. But that was then and this is now and right now she is lighting it up. As a professional this season she missed her first cut but bounced back at The U.S. Women’s Open and tied for tenth. At the Evian Masters she birdied the last two holes to tie for the lead in the clubhouse and finished with a share of second place and a huge paycheck.
We’ve seen this before (see Wie, Michelle) where a tall, strong, lithe young girl has been tutored in golf for most of her life and attempts to become the dominant player on tour. Wie’s career has been tragically mismanaged and marred by injuries and missteps. It is only now as a twenty year old college student that Wie has began to play consistent golf.
Thompson and Wie’s lives do have similarities but Thompson has an advantage that Wie had not. Thompson’s brother, Nicholas has played on the PGA Tour since 2006. Having a sibling that has gone through the rigors of the tour and professional golf has to be a help to Alexis and her family.
Thompson also has another advantage: she has out driven all the long hitters on the LPGA Tour, including Wie and Brittany Lincicome. She plays a game well beyond her young years and in two finishes has earned enough money to put her in 18th place on the LPGA Tour’s Money List, if she was a member. This season she is playing on sponsor’s exemptions and will play some international events in Asia and the Ladies European Tour. Supposedly, the Thompson camp is not considering asking the LPGA to waive their 18 year old age requirement for admission to the tour this year.
I can’t imagine Thompson not seeking a tour card next year. She doesn’t seem to be concerned with attending college and this past week Paula Creamer proved once again that bypassing college was the right formula for her.
At a time when the LPGA needs new, exciting, appealing stars to carry it forward, Alexis Thompson could be just what the tour needs. She’s the next big thing and she’s here right now.