What if 15-year-old Alexis Thompson shocks the world and wins the Evian Masters on Sunday in France?
She’s tied for fourth, just three shots back going into the final round.
If she wins, the question isn’t so much what she would do. It’s what would LPGA commissioner Mike Whan do. He could be on the eve of the most important decision of his early LPGA tenure.
Because here’s the deal: If Thompson wins, there’s a two-year exemption that goes with the victory. As a non-member of the LPGA, Thompson is still eligible to claim that exemption, which would grant her tour membership through this year and through the 2011 season. But because Thompson is 15, she would have to petition the tour for a waiver of its 18-year-old requirement for LPGA membership.
What would Thompson do? Would she petition?
Smartly, she refused to look past Sunday’s final round when asked about it after shooting 5-under-par 67 on Saturday.
“Haven’t thought about that,” she said. “I’m taking one tournament at a time and see where it takes me.”
Her agent, Bobby Kreusler of Blue Giraffe Sports, told GolfChannel.com this week that the family has no intention at this time of petitioning the LPGA for membership, but he said he couldn’t rule out the possibility they will re-think that if she won a tournament this year. He said the two-year exemption that comes with a victory would require serious consideration.
Frankly, it seems difficult to imagine the family wouldn’t petition for membership to claim the exemption if she wins. And it’s difficult to imagine Whan isn’t thinking about what he’ll do should that happen. Because even if Thompson doesn’t win today, she’s showing it’s no fantasy thinking she could do it later this year or even next year. In fact, the way juniors are invading the game, it seems inevitable some young girl is going to shock the world soon.
There’s precedent for granting waivers of the age restriction with Aree Song and Morgan Pressel both joining the tour when they were 17. Song had already met her high-school graduation requirements when granted the waiver. Pressel was just a few months away from doing so when she was allowed to attend Q-School and later join the tour.
With Thompson, it would be a heavier decision for the commissioner. She’ll be starting 10th grade in home school this fall. If the waiver’s granted, there would be a precedent that could open the door to a wave of juniors wanting to start their pro careers before graduating high school.
The odds are against Thompson winning today, with so many veteran winners in the mix, but who would have thought she’d qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open at 12, turn pro at 15, tie for 10th in her first appearance as a pro in the U.S. Women’s Open and be in the thick of the hunt Sunday at Evian?