After carding a 5-under 67 Saturday, 16-year-old Alexis Thompson shared the third-round Avnet LPGA Classic lead with Song-Hee Kim. Thompson would make history with a win on Sunday by becoming the youngest victor in the history of the women’s tour — a win that would likely renew calls to grant the young wunderkind LPGA membership.
The youngest tour winner to date was Marlene Hagge, who won the the 2005 Sybase Classic at the age of 18, 9 months, and 17 days. Under current rules, Thompson would not be eligible to join the tour until she turns 18.
Thompson, playing this week under one of six sponsor exemptions she may receive this year, asked the tour to double that number. Commissioner Mike Whan denied her petition but opened up the qualifying process to all professional golfers, ostensibly providing Thompson with additional playing opportunities. Critics of Whan’s decision aver that the personable, long-hitting Floridian would be a boon to a golf tour struggling to attract TV viewers.
A win in Thompson’s first LPGA tilt of the 2011 season could reinvigorate her supporters to ask Whan to reconsider his position. For her part, Thompson said she was focused on the tournament and not what the future may hold.
“Not really worried about that,” she told reporters following her Saturday round. “Going into tomorrow just going all in on every golf shot. Play consistent like I did the last few days and hopefully it’ll all go well.”
Thompson is no stranger to the limelight. She became the youngest golfer, at age 12, to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open and went undefeated as she helped lead her 2010 Curtis Cup team to victory.