PRATTVILLE, Ala. – At 16, Lexi Thompson has become the youngest player to win an LPGA event.
Thompson shattered the age record for winning a multiple-round tournament held by Paula Creamer, who won in 2005 at 18. Marlene Hagge was 18 years and 14 days old when she won the single-round Sarasota Open in 1952.
Thompson, who turned 16 in February, led by five strokes entering the final round and built that to seven through 10 holes at the Robert Trent Jones Trail’s Capitol Hill complex. Then came the teen’s only big lapse on the pressure-packed day when she bogeyed the next two holes while Joh surged to within three strokes.
Thompson erased any concerns of a collapse with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.
“I was just focusing on playing the golf course today and doing my best,” she said. “That’s all I could do. I was a little nervous on the first tee, I’m not going to lie. If you’re not nervous, you don’t care.”
Cool under pressure most of the day, Thompson and her caddie father, Scott, couldn’t contain broad smiles as they approached the 18th green with the win, and a spot in LPGA history, in hand.
The home-schooled teen from Coral Springs, Florida, tapped in for par, hugged her father and got a celebratory dousing of bottled water over her head from Joh.
Now, the question is will she be granted LPGA membership? Thompson will have to petition for an exemption of the 18-year-old age requirement.
The LPGA already granted her petition for qualifying school, and she won the first stage by 10 strokes in July.
Joh, who opened the day seven shots back, finished with a 68 after closing the gap with four straight birdies starting on No. 12. Her previous best finish was 12th at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
Thompson got a little relief from the pressure, laughing along with Joh after her tee shot rolled inches to the right of the hole on the par-3 No. 16.
“I’m waiting for everybody’s reaction,” Thompson said. “I was really excited. It was a great shot.”
She birdied to push her lead back to four strokes, acknowledging the fans with a brief grin and a tip of her visor.
Thompson closed with a tap-in for par and a drama-free finale.
She had flirted with history before. Thompson shared the 2009 Navistar LPGA lead after two rounds as a 14-year-old amateur. In May, she entered the final round at the Avnet LPGA in Mobile tied for the lead, but dropped to 19th with a closing 78.
This time, she built such a cushion that back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12 only cut her lead to three strokes over Lang and Lee. Thompson recovered with tap-ins for par on the next hole and No. 15 and coasted from there.
Thompson sailed through the first nine holes with one birdie and a bogey. Only once did she flirt with serious trouble, when her approach shot sailed well over the hole and within a couple of feet of a downhill slope into bunkers.
No problem. She two-putted for par and then made an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 8.