by Jeff Skinner
The very talented but very young, Alexis Thompson has petitioned the LPGA Tour for an additional six sponsor exemptions. She wants a chance to play in twelve LPGA sanctioned events next season. There is no debating Thompson’s talent. She finished second at the Evian Masters and tied for tenth place at The U.S. Women’s Open. The issue is not with her talent but with her age as she is only fifteen and turns sixteen in February. The LPGA limits membership until a player is eighteen but the commissioner has issued waivers regarding age differences in the past. Morgan Pressel was allowed to compete in LPGA Q-School at seventeen.
Commissioner Michael Whan will review the petition and then decide what to do with Thompson’s request. The Thompson camp may have made a misstep here in asking for double the number of exemptions. They should have considered an exemption for early entry into Q-School and then let Alexis earn her way on to the tour full time.
Thompson’s agent makes the argument that the additional exemptions will allow her to play while at the same time protecting the field of full time members. However that is not the case. Many exemptions are given to players that have hit tough times and not qualified for the tournament and may need an exemption to play.
Thompson’s cash winnings of $336,472 last year would have placed her 34th on the LPGA tour’s money list, if it all counted. The tour chooses not to count the money in those tournaments because the purses are double that of every other tournament. So Thompson is left to ask the Tour for special treatment.
The LPGA Tour needs to examine their qualification rules. The idea that talented players will wait until they turn eighteen is outdated. All Thompson is trying to do is work and playing golf pays a lot better than babysitting the kids down the block. Thompson isn’t the first to try and play early and won’t be the last. It’s time the tour stepped up and reexamined their bylaws.
Michael Whan is a very smart man and a proactive commissioner and this should be high on his to-do list. He knows that Thompson will sell tickets for years to come. He needs to develop a plan to get her playing more and at the same time protect his membership. He’ll come up with something, after all having a bright, new powerful player on the LPGA Tour is one of the things the LPGA needs. And Alexis Thompson is just the ticket.