ORLANDO, Fla. – Fifteen-year-old Alexis Thompson’s petition to gain more access to the LPGA through more sponsor exemptions will ultimately be ruled upon by commissioner Mike Whan, but LPGA pros have their own opinions.
After her round Friday at the LPGA Tour Championship, two-time major champion Cristie Kerr said she’s against the petition.
Thompson’s seeking 12 sponsor exemptions next year, six more than tour rules allow. Her agent, Bobby Kreusler, says she’s proved she deserves more and that it’s a good future pathway for up-and-coming young phenoms who are too young to seek tour membership but have proved themselves in tour events. The LPGA requires members be 18 years old.
“I don’t think you can do that,” Kerr said of Thompson’s petition for 12 sponsor exemptions. “You get six exemptions, unless you’re a member of the tour. And you have the right to qualify. That’s never been done before. I wouldn’t expect that it would be done . . . I don’t think that’s a good idea for the tour.”
LPGA veteran Angela Stanford says the nature of today’s LPGA schedule, and the fewer opportunities available for rank-and-file members, has her against expanding sponsor exemption restrictions. She believes the limit of six sponsor exemptions for non-members protects the privileges that members have earned.
“I think if you look at our schedule, and I’m talking about just present day, [12 sponsor exemptions] is half our events,” Stanford said. “That’s not fair. I’m sorry. I just don’t think you allow somebody opportunities into half our events when you have members who, maybe, won’t be able to get into tournaments. I think six is a great number, especially present day. If our schedule continues to grow, maybe eight. I would hope we would never go over more than 10. That’s just to protect the membership.
“She’ll get her six exemptions. She’ll get into the U.S. Open. That’s seven events. A lot of our members may not play in that many, I’m not sure about that. But, I think six is fine.”
Morgan Pressel, who was granted a petition for a waiver of the tour’s 18-year-old age restriction when she was 17, was non-committal when first asked about Thompson after her round.
“It’s the first I've heard of it,” Pressel said. “I think it’s interesting.
“I was going to be 18 in the middle of the season when I petitioned. It just happened that my birthday fell in the middle of the year. It’s a different situation. I guess they just feel she’s ready and they want her to play more.”