ORLANDO, Fla. -- OK, so the suspense wasn’t killing anybody.
One day after receiving a formal petition to allow one of the top junior players in the world to receive membership next year on the LPGA, tour commissioner Mike Whan on Friday gave Lexi Thompson the green light everybody knew was in the pipeline.
Speaking of pipe, it was a lead-pipe cinch.
After Thompson won the LPGA event two weeks ago in Alabama, beating a field that included world No. 1 Yani Tseng, the petition's outcome became as obvious as it was inevitable.
Whan earlier this year had already cleared Thompson, now 16 and the youngest player ever to win an LPGA event by nearly 1½ years, to try her hand at the Qualifying School process with the hopes of securing a card in 2012.
Then she jumped the developmental line, if you will. Right to the front, in fact.
“Lexi Thompson is a unique talent who has continued to grow, develop and mature both on and off the golf course since turning professional in 2010,” Whan said Friday. “Her overall performance, most recently demonstrated by her win at the Navistar LPGA Classic, has currently placed her among the top 50 in the world rankings.
“Additionally, her ability to handle the success and disappointment inherent to this game testifies to a level of maturity that I believe makes her capable of handling the emotional rigors of professional golf.”
Thompson is a fresh mix of teen enthusiasm, naivety and innocence. She’s nobody’s fool, either. A couple of years ago, she served as the standard bearer for older brother Nicholas Thompson’s group in a PGA Tour event in which he was playing. Unlike her other brother, LSU freshman Curtis, Lexi said at the time that she never plays against Nicholas with stakes on the line.
“Curtis loses, and is always washing his car and mowing the lawn for him,” she laughed.
So she’s been acutely aware of her talent strata for quite a while now and has planned accordingly. Whan was awaiting a formal petition to waive the age restriction from Thompson’s management firm. It arrived Thursday.
The LPGA has long age limitations in place, but Thompson is home-schooled and will turn 17 before the 2012 season begins. Players between 15-18 must petition for early membership consideration. Unlike Michelle Wie, for instance, Thompson has been on an advanced learning curve, but skipped no developmental steps along the way.
She won four times on the AJGA, the nation's premier junior circuit, won the U.S. Girls' Junior in 2008, played in two U.S. Women's Amateurs and first qualified for the U.S. Open at age 12, a record. She has played 19 LPGA events and her management plans to ramp her up to a full schedule slowly, not immediately.
Given the fact that she has already won once – the rest of the Americans contingent has amassed three wins this year on the LPGA – Thompson will be viewed as a quick fix and sure-fire panacea for the tour is way too premature. Aree Song, for instance, had a unbelievable track record as a teen amateur when playing against the professionals, turned pro, and has labored to make an impact ever since. Despite more hype than any player since Tiger Woods, Wie has been underwhelming as a pro compared to her earlier amateur results, too.
That said, Thompson would surely have fit right in, talent-wise, at the Solheim Cup last week, when rookie Ryann O’Toole made the U.S. team despite a not-so-grand total of 10 career LPGA starts.
Thompson, of course, already has an LPGA win.
Two, if you count the Friday ruling.