The Young and Relentless


2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' Alexis Thompson will make you forget.
At 5 feet 9, with her long and fluid swing, shes launching tee shots past many of the tour pros here at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
With her name moving within striking distance of the leaders Friday, shes looking as if she belongs out here.
But after Thompson posted a second consecutive even-par 72 to make her first cut in a major championship, her mother reminds you that not-so little Lexi is barely 14, the youngest player in the field this week.
Alexis Thompson
Alexis Thompson shot 72 Friday at the Kraft Nabisco. (Getty Images)
Do you see the bling on her hat? Judy Thompson asks. She thought the hat was too plain, so she did that herself.
Lexi pasted sparkly crystal beads all around the bill of her white cap. When you look closer, her father reminds you that his champion golfer is just an eighth grader who loves her lady bug earrings. He reminds you that she collects all things lady-bug related. Whether its jewelry, knickknacks or clothing, she wants it.
Once people found out she loved lady bugs, they just started sending her things, Scott Thompson. You wouldnt believe what people send.
Thompson, a Coral Springs, Fla., resident, is the No. 1 junior in the United States, the No. 3 womens amateur. Shes the reigning U.S. Girls Junior champion as well as the youngest winner in the history of the PGA Junior Girls Championship, the Doral Publix Junior and the Doherty Cup. Oh yeah, shes also the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Womens Open, making it when she was 12.
Add in a nice little story Friday with her older brother, Nicholas, grabbing the first-round lead at the Shell Houston Open, and the Thompson story becomes even more compelling.
The Thompson family is a collection of remarkably gifted golfers.
Nicholas, a 26-year-old PGA Tour professional vying to claim his first Masters invitation by winning in Houston, is the oldest of the trio. Lexis the youngest. Curtis, 16, is the middle child whos coming into his own this year. He finished fourth in the Azalea Invitational last week, a mens amateur event littered with top collegians.
In February, Curtis and Lexi became the first brother and sister to win the Verizon Junior Heritage, both claiming their divisions in playoffs ending just minutes apart.
Judy Thompson, the mom, was a decent high school player who competed as a freshman in community college, but she doesnt play any longer.
Scott says he was shamed out of the game.
When your 8-year-old daughter beats you, its time to get out, Scott said.
Lexi learned a long time ago that keeping up is the best way to get ahead.
She can thank her older brothers for the wonder of this paradox.
She did more than tag along. She competed.
Scott joked that Nicholas was motivated to seize the early lead in Houston for reasons that reach beyond a Masters invite.
I dont think he wanted Lexi to get more TV time than he did, Scott said.
Back at the TPC at Eagle Trace, the Coral Springs development where the Thompson trio was raised, Scott encouraged all kinds of practice games on the range that included Lexi. The stakes were high. The loser was forced to do chores for the others. That could be anything from washing the dishes and making the beds to doing laundry.
It definitely helped me having older brothers, Lexi said.
With a driving distance average of 255.5 yards this week, Lexi ranked 20th in the field midway through Fridays afternoon round. She can thank Curtis for that. Playing alongside him so often as juniors, she did her best to hit it past him.
This week marks Lexis third LPGA appearance. She missed the cut in her first two U.S. Womens Open appearances as a 12- and 13-year-old. She was scheduled to make a fourth LPGA appearance later this month after winning a qualifier to get into the LPGAs Ginn Open, but the tournament folded.
Thompson would welcome playing in more LPGA events, but she hasnt been offered any sponsor invites.
I dont feel comfortable writing and asking when shes only 14, Scott said. If she were to be invited, she would play.
Scott isnt a swing coach ' he recently brought in Jim McLean to help with that ' but he is a coach in a larger sense of the word. He raised his children believing they were best served playing up in class. He endured some heat for that over the years, especially when Curtis struggled as a 14-year-old competing against 18-year-olds. There were parents who thought Curtis was getting beaten down. In the end, though, Scotts approach is paying huge dividends.
Lexis played up and played up and played up, and now theres no more up beyond the LPGA, Scott said.
The Thompsons are frequently asked if Lexi plans to skip college to join the LPGA ranks.
I would like to play the LPGA, but its a little early to say, Lexi said.
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