Young American

By Randall MellJuly 10, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. WomenBETHLEHEM, Pa. ' If you watched Alexis Thompsons mother closely Friday, you could see her stroke the rosary beads around her left wrist as she watched her gifted daughter take this U.S. Womens Open by storm.
Other times, Judy Thompson would clutch the rosary around her neck.
By days end, you couldnt help wondering what cosmic forces her mother called into play.
Thompson is playing at a level few juniors will ever reach.
At 14 years and 5 months old, Thompson made the cut.
She came here for so much more than that, though.
Alexis Thompson
Alexis Thompson reacts to missing a putt on the 18th hole during the second round of the U.S. Women's Open. (Getty Images)
Thats what makes her story compelling.
I wasnt just looking to make the cut, said Thompson, who just completed the eighth grade in Coral Springs, Fla. I know I can contend if my games on out here.
She means it, believes it, wants it with every fiber of her 5-foot-9 frame.
Jim McLean, her swing coach, knows because she kept him on the driving range for nearly two hours after the first round. She was so frustrated with her ball striking she went through four buckets of balls, refusing to leave with darkness approaching. This was after she opened with a 71, good for a tie for sixth place at Saucon Valley Country Clubs Old Course, one of the most difficult U.S. Womens Open setups in years.
Jim McLean is one of the best teachers in the world, and Lexis out there pushing him, said Scott Thompson, her father and caddie. Shes so competitive and so hard on herself.
Halfway through the U.S. Womens Open, Thompson is tied for eighth.
At 2-over 144, shes just five shots behind the leader, Cristie Kerr.
Thompson isnt the youngest player to make the cut in the history of the U.S. Womens Open. In fact, she isnt the youngest to make the cut this year. Alison Lee of Los Angeles, whos 16 days younger than Thompson, also made the cut on Friday. Still, Thompsons turning heads here by getting in contention.
I think its pretty phenomenal to be 14 and in the top 10 of a major, said Lindsey Wright, a fifth-year LPGA pro tied with Thompson. Shes not a professional golfer. Its pretty awesome.
Thompson isnt a pro, but shes no rookie, either. She became the youngest player to qualify for a U.S. Womens Open when she was 12. This is her third U.S. Womens Open, her fourth major. Making the cut in a major is old hat. She made the cut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and tied for low amateur honors.
Thompsons resume is already impressive. Shes the No. 1 junior in the nation, the reigning U.S. Girls Junior champion, the youngest winner in the history of the PGA Junior Championship, the Doral Publix Junior and the Doherty Cup.
The fire that fuels her is visible.
After a double bogey Friday, Thompsons famed scowl emerged.
A bad shot looks like it physically hurts her.
Its part of what makes her great, McLean said. She didnt have her A game in the first round, but she scored well, shot 71 and is tied for sixth in the U.S. Womens Open, but shes unhappy when shes done. I dont think too many people would be upset with a 71 in a major.
McLean tried to cheer her up by reminding her where she stood on the leaderboard.
She didnt want to hear it, McLean said. She says, `I dont care, I didnt hit it good.
Scott has displayed a gifted touch as a golf dad. His oldest, Nicholas Thompson, is a PGA Tour pro. His second child, Curtis, 16, is an up-and-coming junior, too. Lexi is going where no juniors ever gone before. The fact that shes playing in her fourth major is remarkable. Lorena Ochoa, the worlds No. 1 player, was 21 when she played in her fourth major.
Scott admires his daughters passion for the game, but he does worry that she can push too much, expect too much and take the disappointments too hard. Scott sees the big picture.
I have to get that under control a little bit, Scott said.
Lexi knows, too.
We have our father-daughter moments, Lexi said. After I hit a bad shot, its not real pretty, but thats OK. We love each other.
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