LPGA OKs 2012 membership for Lexi Thompson

By Randall MellSeptember 30, 2011, 4:05 pm

Lexi Thompson keeps smashing age barriers.

As expected, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan announced Friday he is granting Thompson’s petition for a waiver of the tour’s rule requiring members be at least 18 years old. The waiver clears the way for the 16-year-old to claim tour membership based on her victory at the Navistar LPGA Classic two weeks ago. Thompson, however, is deferring membership until the start of next season, when she’ll turn 17.

Thompson became the youngest winner of an LPGA event, claiming the Navistar title at 16 years, 7 months and 8 days old. She turns 17 on Feb. 10, which is about when the 2012 season is expected to begin. Next year’s schedule has yet to be released.

“Lexi Thompson is a unique talent who has continued to grow, develop and mature both on and off the golf course since turning professional in 2010,” Whan said. “Her overall performance, most recently demonstrated by her win at the Navistar LPGA Classic, has currently placed her among the top 50 in the world on the Rolex Rankings. Additionally, her ability to handle the success and disappointment inherent to this game testifies to a level of maturity that I believe makes her capable of handling the emotional rigors of professional golf. Therefore, effective at the start of our 2012 season, Lexi will officially become a member of the LPGA Tour.

“Clearly, there is great enthusiasm and excitement as Lexi begins her LPGA career,” Whan said. “I think her future is bright and I hope she makes the most of this opportunity.”

Thompson becomes the fourth player to gain a waiver of the tour’s age restriction but the youngest to do so. Morgan PresselAree Song and Jessica Korda were granted waivers when they were 17 but all three waivers came with those players nearing their 18th birthdays and with their high school educations completed or virtually complete. Thompson, of Coral Springs, Fla., just started her junior year as a home-school student but is in an accelerated program and is scheduled to graduate next May.

'It's amazing,' Thompson said of Friday's news. 'It's always been my dream to play the tour full time.'

Thompson was 12 when she first captured the attention of golf fans by becoming the youngest player to qualify to play in the U.S. Women’s Open. She gained special permission from Whan to attend LPGA Qualifying School at 16 this year. After breezing through first stage, she won Navistar, then withdrew from the second stage of Q-School last week.

Thompson’s agent, Bobby Kreusler, filed the petition for a waiver Thursday morning.

“There was a unique angle to the petition in that it wasn’t based on her victory but on her body of work and accomplishments,” Kreusler said. “It focused on the maturity she’s demonstrated, on her emotional stability, on her ability to prove she belongs beyond her play. She proved herself with her playing partners, with title sponsors and in how she handled the highs and lows of playing well and playing poorly.”

Thompson, of course, made an impression winning Navistar, but she also made an impression in how she dealt with blowing the final-round lead at the Avnet Classic in May. She handled it like a pro afterward, doing media interviews and signing autographs.

“I think she showed a lot of people what she’s made of,” Kreusler said. “It’s easy to be gracious in victory.”

By deferring membership until the start of next year, Thompson will be eligible to win Rookie of the Year honors next season. She will be competing in Category 7 of the LPGA Priority Status provisions, among categories that give players “exempt status,” though the LPGA doesn’t use that terminology. By winning Navistar, Thompson actually won two years of membership privileges. She also has earned membership privileges in 2013.

Though Thompson could have asked for immediate LPGA membership for the remainder of this season, the benefits would have been minimal. The fields would have been closed to Thompson in five of the six tournaments remaining on the LPGA schedule, all but the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Also, if she claimed immediate membership, she wouldn’t have been considered a rookie next season.

Kreusler said he expects Thompson will play in 18 to 20 events next year.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.