COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – LPGA commissioner Mike Whan says Lexi Thompson is a unique player, and he doesn’t see his granting her a waiver to attend LPGA Q-School as a 16-year-old this summer creating a new junior pipeline to the tour.
“I don’t think I’ve opened any floodgate, and the reason I know that is because I’m going to hold the gate,” Whan told GolfChannel.com Wednesday at the U.S. Women’s Open. “Is there another Lexi coming? Probably. Are they few and far between? Absolutely. So I don’t really think it’s a floodgate. I didn’t say welcome to the LPGA. I said we’ll see you at LPGA International [for Q-School] and good luck.”
Whan said he told Thompson’s managers that if she was going to gain a waiver of the tour’s requirement that members be at least 18, she would have to play her way through Q-School. He said it’s an opportunity he isn’t going to extend very often to underage applicants. In fact, Whan said he’s already denied more than one teenager’s petition for a waiver in his less than two years on the job.
“I respect the fact that Lexi is on a unique plane performance-wise,” Whan said. “I also know there’s another Lexi coming down the road in another couple years, but the standard’s going to be pretty high.”
The larger question isn’t whether Whan’s decision will “open a floodgate,” but will it create a new blueprint for teenagers trying to make it to the tour? Will it make home-schooling, turning pro at 15 and petitioning for tour membership at 16 more common? Whan can deny all the petitions for waivers he wants, but will he now find himself denying more petitions?
Whan was asked what message he’d like to deliver teenage prodigies.
“I would say the same thing I’ve been saying: Why rush?” Whan said. “Did I struggle with the decision? Yes. Still do. I’ll probably struggle with it a long time, but the struggle isn’t that I’m opening a floodgate. I know I’m not. I’m not going to be the commissioner who is known for opening the floodgate.”
Whan said he saw reasons to make Thompson an exception to the rule.
“I can tell you her being a professional had nothing to do with my decision, it meant nothing to me one way or another,” Whan said. “That’s just being perfectly honest. I’ve seen her play. I’ve seen her handle herself in pro-ams. I’ve seen her handle herself in pro-am parties. I’ve seen her handle herself on good days, and I’ve seen her handle herself on bad days. She obviously can perform at a high level. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.
“But, I think if she wants to be on the LPGA, she’s going to have to go do it over 13 rounds [at Q-School]. I think she can, but I don’t know if she will. I’m not convinced that’s a foregone conclusion even though I hear people telling me that it is.”
Whan said Thompson proved something to get her chance. She’ll have to prove something again at Q-School to win her membership.