Lexi Thompson may be only 16, but the newest and youngest member of the LPGA Tour has the playing experience of a seasoned veteran. So when the golfer who went 4-0-1 in helping her U.S. Curtis Cup team to a 12.5-7.5 victory in 2010 says there’s no greater honor than “playing for your country,” the young lady knows whereof she speaks.
“The ‘major’ thought hasn’t crossed my mind yet,” the reigning Navistar LPGA Classic champ Thompson said in Thursday’s edition of Al Nisr Publishing’s XPress about whether capturing a major title topped her list of career goals. “For now, I want to represent the U.S. in the Solheim Cup, for that’s been a long-cherished dream.”
The Florida teen was speaking from Dubai, where an opening-round 2-under 70 put her four shots back of leader Lotta Wahlin in this week’s Dubai Ladies Masters. Among the competitors at Emirates Golf Club was Michelle Wie, a two-time tour winner who was the LPGA’s “It” girl several years before Thompson played her way onto the scene.
Despite failing to live up to many observers’ expectations after her much-hyped entry to women’s golf, Wie excelled in her Solheim Cup debut in 2009. The enthusiasm and genuine joy with which she embraced her teammates and the competition won the Stanford University student scores of new fans.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing golf. It was just unbelievable, the crowds, the cheers, the pressure, everything about it,” Wie told reporters at the time. “It was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before….I’m still shaking from the round it was just so much fun.”
Wie also acknowledged how significant it was to compete for U.S. bragging rights.
“It’s a completely different feeling because I’m not only playing for myself, I’m playing for my team, I’m playing for my team members and I’m playing for my country. So that in itself…makes for a completely different experience [from] what I do in other weeks,” Wie said. “I play well because I want to play well, and I do it for my own — because I want to do it for myself, basically.
“But you know, this week I do it for my country. I do it for us. I do it for pride, and I don’t think it’s comparable at all,” Wie averred, earning a “Good answer” from compatriot Morgan Pressel.
Thompson expressed similar sentiments about contending in last year’s Curtis Cup, during which the then-15-year-old introduced herself to a world of golf watchers with her flawless play at Massachusetts’ Essex County Club.
“It definitely did [live up to expectations],” Thompson said after her team downed the unit from Great Britain and Ireland. “I heard so many things about how great an event it is and how amazing an experience the golf course is to play, and it definitely lived up to my standards. And it was so much fun, and I can’t even explain how much fun it was….I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Thompson turned pro a week later, and while she may be a newbie to the professional ranks, the teenager’s resume speaks volumes about her achievements. Among other accomplishments, Thompson was the youngest player ever to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Open, which she did when she was 12. It took her all of a year and a couple of months after shedding her amateur status to post her first LPGA triumph, and when she did so in September, Thompson shattered the record for youngest-ever winner of a tour contest.
Which brings us to the bout in Dubai, where Thompson finished in a tie for 22nd place last year. With questions about whether she could join the tour behind her (shortly after Thompson’s September victory, commissioner Mike Whan waived the rule restricting membership to those 18 years and older), the home-schooled high schooler had her sights set on next year and beyond.
“I am really looking forward to 2012,” said Thompson, who had another aim that stretched almost two years out. With the United States slated to host the biennial Solheim Cup matches in August 2013, the youngster hoped to earn the right to represent her nation.
“I think there can be nothing bigger than playing for your country,” the Curtis Cup star told XPress.