Alexis Thompson’s the headliner with the LPGA’s new Qualifying School format making its debut Tuesday at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., but she isn’t the only player competing with special permission because she doesn’t meet the tour’s requirement that members be at least 18 years old.
Thompson, the 16-year-old pro from Coral Springs, Fla., was expected to arrive back in Florida from the Evian Masters in France on Monday night, according to her agent, Bobby Kreusler. Thompson tied for 36th at Evian. Though Thompson won’t get back in time for a practice round, Kreusler said she played a practice round before leaving for the Evian Masters.
Argentina’s Victoria Tanco, 17, and Ginger Howard, 17, were also granted special permission to compete. Tanco turns 18 in February, Howard in March.
Tanco is No. 1 in the Golfweek women’s amateur rankings. Howard and Tanco are both IMG Golf Academy students, though Howard turned pro earlier this summer.
Thompson turns 17 in February. If she makes it through all three Q-School stages, she’ll become the youngest player to have earned LPGA playing privileges.
Thompson, Tanco and Howard are among 150 players teeing it up in the first stage of the new three-stage qualifying format. The 72-hole first stage qualifier is scheduled to end Friday with the top 50 players and ties advancing to the second stage at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla., Sept. 27-30. The final stage is 90 holes Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at LPGA International.
California’s Brianna Do, winner of this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, and Hawaii's Stephanie Kono, a member of UCLA's 2011 NCAA championship team, also are competing in first stage.