LPGA opens window for Alexis Thompson

January, 14, 2011

Busy weeks for most 15-year-old girls are limited to texting, boy-talk and maybe some homework. Lexi Thompson isn't like most 15-year-old girls.

On Monday, the phenom competed as the only female in a Minor League Golf Tour event -- playing from about 6,800 yards as opposed to the 7,100 used by all other players -- and finished in a share of third place, three strokes behind her brother Nick, who spent the past three seasons as a member of the PGA Tour.

Four days later, her petition requesting "limited partnership" on the LPGA for 2011 and doubled sponsor exemptions from six to 12 was denied by commissioner Mike Whan.

Considering an apparent hunger for more superstars to help the visibility of the LPGA, this may have been a difficult decision for Whan, but it was the correct one. There is dangerous precedence in skirting the rules for one individual ---it happened with Michelle Wie prior to her 18th birthday -- and it's a path the second-year commish doesn't wish to take.

"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," Whan said in a released statement. "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."

Therein lies the bigger story of the day. While Monday qualifiers were previously open only to LPGA members, there will now be opportunities for non-members to qualify for events through such means. With a half-dozen sponsor exemptions already at her disposal, plus earned starts into the U.S. Women's Open and Evian Masters, the teenager enters the season with a guaranteed eight appearances and the chance to earn many more.

Her agent, Bobby Kreusler of Blue Giraffe Sports, told me the petition denial shouldn't be seen as a negative. In a way, the ruling may afford her the chance to play even more tournaments than had been petitioned for, but this is just one step in a longer process at figuring out what is best for Thompson's growth as both a player and person.

And really, that's the most important thing here. Kreusler and Whan have been discussing the issue for a while now and each contend her best interests are at the heart of the matter.

Of course, with three years remaining until she reaches the LPGA's minimum age requirement, don't expect this story to go away for good. There's a strong chance that one year from now she will petition the tour once again and, as Kreusler explained, "If she plays the way she's capable of playing, we're pretty certain there will be a different outcome."

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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