NAPLES, Fla. – She’s the baby sister.
There is no more profound analysis of why Lexi Thompson is rocketing up the ranks of the women’s game.
With Sunday’s victory at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Thompson notched her third LPGA title and cracked the top 10 in the Rolex Women's World Rankings, making her the second highest ranked American woman in the game.
She’s still 18.
At 12, Thompson became the youngest player to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Open. At 15, she turned pro. At 16, she won her first LPGA event, which made her the youngest player at that time to win on the tour.
If Thompson seems as if she’s in a hurry, that’s because she was programmed that way. That’s how it is when you are the baby sister always racing to keep up with two talented, older brothers. She wasn’t pushed as a prodigy so much as she was pulled along in the powerful drag her brothers created.
“They’re the reasons I’m playing golf,” Lexi says. “If it wasn’t for them, I might be playing soccer right now.”
Thompson is relishing her appearance in this week’s LPGA season finale at the CME Group Titleholders in great measure because the brothers she followed everywhere as a kid will be here at Tiburon following her.
With Nicholas, 30, on the PGA Tour, and Curtis, 20, playing for LSU, it’s rare when all three are together on a golf course anymore. This week, Curtis will be inside the ropes with Lexi, toting her bag as her caddie in a special, limited appearance. Nicholas will be outside the ropes. He’s making the trip with his wife and their 6-week-old baby boy, Nico. It will mark the first time Curtis meets his new nephew.
While much has been made of the impact Nicholas has had on Lexi’s game, Curtis probably had the greater impact. As the middle child, Curtis hasn’t yet received the attention Nicholas and Lexi have received, but he’s got game. He led LSU in scoring last season. He won medalist honors in stroke-play qualifying at the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur, besting defending champion Jordan Spieth by a shot. He won the 2011 Dixie Amateur.
“Curtis is the most gifted of the three of us,” Nicholas likes to say. “He has the most talent.”
There might not be a single, greater influence on Lexi’s game than Curtis. That’s because they are so close in age and spent so much time playing and practicing together. They were inseparable as juniors, training and home schooling together.
Curtis set the bar for Lexi in so many ways.
“It choked me up when Lexi told me she was going to ask Curtis to caddie for her,” said Judy Thompson, the mother. “It will mean a lot seeing them out there together.”
For so long, Lexi never knew anything other than family as her caddie. Her father, Scott, was her caddie her first two years as a pro, until they hired Greg Johnston early last year. Johnston and Lexi parted ways a couple weeks ago.
“It just felt like it was time for a change,” said Bobby Kreusler, Lexi’s manager. “Lexi thinks the world of Greg, but it was time to try something different.”
Benji Thompson, no relation, was brought on as Lexi’s new caddie and helped her win in Mexico Sunday in his first week on the bag. He used to caddie for Casey Wittenberg and will be back on Lexi’s bag in the future.
This won’t be the first time Curtis caddies for his sister. He toted her bag when she played some men’s mini-tour events in South Florida after she turned pro. He also caddied for her at the CVS Caremark Charity Classic this past summer.
“I love having my brother on the bag,” Lexi said. “He knows my game, and we do make a good team. We have a lot of fun together on the golf course.”
Scott Thompson, the father, says Lexi’s ability to hit it so long came in trying to keep up with Curtis.
“I was trying to keep up with Nick, and Lexi was trying to keep up with me,” Curtis said. “I think it was kind of like a chain reaction there.”
Curtis and Lexi didn’t play just for fun growing up. They played for chores. They played knowing the loser had to make the other’s bed for a week, or do double duty washing dishes, or taking out the garbage.
“Curtis and Lexi were so competitive it wasn’t funny,” Scott once said.
Curtis says he and Lexi have grown to appreciate each other even more as they have gotten older.
“It’s not so much because we’re older, but because we are apart now,” Curtis said. “We aren’t together competing all the time.”
As much as Lexi’s star rises, she’ll always be baby sister to Curtis and Nicholas. It defines her in so many ways.