Lexi Thompson’s mother was asked to divulge the secret.
How did her husband, Scott, nurture not just one golf prodigy, but three of them? What great plan did he follow as the primary coach in raising three gifted golf siblings?
“Scott’s never read a golf book or golf magazine,” Judy Thompson said.
Detecting the disbelief in the faces of a pair of reporters, Judy leaned over and tapped her husband’s shoulder, pulling him out of a conversation in the back of the CME Group Titleholders media room Tuesday at the Grand Cypress Resort.
“Scott, have you ever read a golf book?” Judy asked.
“No,” Scott said before quickly swiveling his head back to the other conversation.
Judy tapped him again.
“Scott, have you ever read a golf magazine?” Judy asked.
“No,” Scott said.
Scott, by the way, was once a single-digit handicap golfer, but he never considered himself a great player.
So what’s the family secret? How did Scott, as the first coach to Lexi, Nicholas and Curtis, draw out all this talent as they grew up in Coral Springs, Fla.?
His oldest son, Nicholas, 28, is at the second stage of Q-School this week, looking to return to the PGA Tour. Lexi, 16, won the Navistar Classic this summer to become the youngest winner in LPGA history. Curtis, 18, is a freshman on golf scholarship at LSU who might be the most talented of the trio.
“We made it fun,” Judy said. “Golf was never a chore. It was never, 'You have to go hit two pyramids of balls today at the range.' Scott always made it fun, with games, closest-to-the-pin contests. Scott never read a golf book or a golf magazine. It’s all come from the heart.”
Lexi is scheduled to tee it up Thursday at the CME Group Titleholders, the LPGA’s season-ending event. It’s her first start since she won at Navistar. With a waiver of the LPGA’s rule requiring members be at least 18 years old, Thompson is set to join the LPGA as a full member next year.
“Having my dad on the bag [at Navistar], sharing the experience with me, it was everything I could ask for,” Lexi said.
Judy Thompson’s devotion can’t be overlooked in the family’s golf success, but she will tell you she’s pleased her husband, Scott, is back on Lexi’s bag as caddie this week, and that he plans to continue to caddie for her when she joins the tour as a member next year.
Scott made his money as a manufacturer of transformers. Today, he makes his living as an investor. Though Scott said he would ultimately like to turn caddie duties over to a professional, Lexi wants him on her bag now. And Scott will tell you he’s becoming less father and more caddie when he’s between the ropes.
“I’m dad about zero of the time when I’m out there now,” Scott said. “It’s a job.”
Scott has taken some criticism over the last year for not surrendering the caddie role to a pro, but he’s trying to approach the duties as a professional. Scott said he will ultimately find somebody to take over, but his daughter trusts him most right now. Scott’s in charge of yardages, helps her pull clubs, but he doesn’t read greens. And he doesn’t take a percentage of her winnings or a weekly salary for his caddie pay.
“I get my room and my meals paid for,” Scott said. “So, she saves money.
“She’s learning to make more decisions on her own out there. There are still times, under the heat of battle, where she’s not ready to pull that club. She is wanting my reinforcement, but she’s usually on cruise control. I’m just giving her yardages and hoofing with the bag. Not a whole lot of input from me anymore.”
The caddie/dad role was scrutinized in the spring at Avnet, where Lexi was the 54-hole leader but melted down at the 14th hole on Sunday. She hit a wedge in the water there on her way to a double bogey. She hit the wrong club.
“They beat me up a little bit about that,” Thompson said of media scrutiny. “I thought it was a little downwind. I told her to nuke a wedge. Really, I didn’t think about how she wasn’t hitting the ball solid all day. I was still thinking birdie, that we still have a chance and we have to birdie some holes coming in. I gave her a club I thought she could make birdie with, because I thought the other clubs would go long. She mishit it, it went on the bank and went back in the water . . .
“You learn, but it was painful.”
The lessons paid a dividend with the father/daughter combo winning at Navistar.
“We got pretty emotional,” Lexi said. “It’s a great memory I’ll never forget.”