Star In The Making Already Here

Lexi Thompson

Lexi Thompson hits her tee shot on the fifth hole during the first round of the 2012 LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship. AP photo

Seventeen-year-old Lexi Thompson missed the cut at last week’s LPGA Lotte Championship. The result didn’t sit well with the ultra-competitive teen, but it was hardly a crushing blow.

It seems most losses aren’t. Two years ago Thompson held a share of the lead going into the final round of the Avnet LPGA Classic. She shot 78, lost any chance of victory, and when asked if she would sit with the Golf Channel after, happily accepted and even stayed to sign autographs.

Not a big deal? It shouldn’t be, but it is. Boorish behavior following disappointing performances in sports is far too common not to recognize the noteworthy behavior of the then-15-year-old.

“You have to let the bad rounds and the bad shots go, and move on to the next shot or the next tournament,” she said while admitting that getting beat on the LPGA Tour is still nicer than getting beat by her brothers, who she credits with helping her become mentally tough. “I’m used to getting beat by them and dealing with their trash talking. You just have to take it.”

Her brother Nicholas played six years on the PGA Tour and is now a member of the Nationwide Tour. Brother No. 2 plays for LSU.

It was just this sort of maturity that convinced LPGA commissioner Michael Whan to grant Thompson a waiver which allowed her to become a full-time tour member. As her coach Jim McLean noted, “Lexi Thompson is God’s gift to Mike Whan.”

McLean may have been stretching her impact a bit – the LPGA is more talent rich than ever in its history. But McLean is right in that the tour needs a star, or two.

Talent alone isn’t enough. Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said LPGA popularity depends on looking like a woman and playing like a man. Thompson has that, and a 2011 black Camaro SS.

Looks, game, attitude. Cha-ching!

Perhaps McLean is right. Maybe she is the marketing dream the tour has been looking for.

“That was my little purchase at the beginning of last year,” she said with a smile you could hear over the phone. “After Evian and Open finishes, I bought the SS and got some additions put on it. My dad helped me pick out this one and put the additions on it to make it look all cool. It’s all blacked out. I got black chrome wheels and a blacked out billet grill.”

There you have it. The new answer to Paula Creamer’s Pink Panther – Lexi Thompson’s Black Beauty.

“It definitely has my personality in it,” she says.

Like Michelle Wie before her, Thompson was a star long before securing her tour card. Unlike Wie, however, Thompson has found a mentor and a completely different attitude on swing theory. First of all, she cares very little about mechanics, preferring feel to hours spent in search of technical perfection. Outside of practice times, where video is a necessity, Thompson does not watch herself, and with the exception of some minor adjustments over the years, her swing hasn’t changed since she was 9.

“I don’t know what’s good or bad, I simply know how it’s supposed to feel,” she said in a 2011 Sports Illustrated

article. “I look at the target, picture the shot I want to hit and swing. That’s it. I don’t over-think it.”

Perhaps even more important is that at the age of 17, she has already identified someone on whom she can model her career.

“I got to meet and hang out with Nancy Lopez,” Thompson says. “She was my captain for the Junior Solheim Cup and I got to learn about her career and got to know her, and I want to be like her as a player, on and off the golf course as well. She’s amazing.”

Good call.