Jul
11
2009
Is Alexis Thompson Ready to Play With the Big Boys?
By Stephanie Wei under General

At 14 years old, Alexis Thompson is playing beyond her years. Two years ago, she became the youngest player to qualify for the US Women’s Open. Now her third time around, she finds herself in contention going into the third round at Saucon Valley. She’s T8 after firing scores of 71-73, two-over-par.

Alexis has the makings to be the next big thing to hit the professional ranks – she’s poised, mature and confident. It appears she has no problem keeping up with the lengthy 6,740-yard course setup. In fact, she said, “I like longer golf courses because it sort of brings everybody in play.” Even if she doesn’t make as much noise over the weekend, many are probably already wondering if the teen phenom will turn pro a la Michelle Wie. But it sounds like Alexis isn’t jumping the gun. When asked if her game was made for Majors, she replied, “Probably not yet. I’m not going to go and say that, but yeah, I’m going to go through Junior Golf.”

She’s also smart.

However, some pundits might disagree. Yesterday, Brandon Tucker argued that the golf world should rally up some sponsor exemptions for Alexis to compete on the PGA Tour. And it has to be NOW.

If she has the opportunity to play with the men, I agree it would attract positive attention to the game and women’s golf. But at what cost? The plan could easily backfire. There will always be naysayers – people waiting with open claws for the tiniest slip-up to attack. While Alexis might be able to handle the competition, she’s only FOURTEEN YEARS OLD.

Athletes her age should devote more time and effort to enjoying their teenage years, and the maturation process that occurs between the ages of 14 and 18 before they play professionally full time. Same goes for even considering competing on the men’s tour, albeit on a sponsor’s exemption. But that’s just me.

Do we need to expose another teen to that kind of pressure? Michelle already took on a lot of heat – probably too much – when she was thrust into the spotlight at a very young age. Disagree with me if you’d like, but Michelle has taken women’s golf to the next level – maybe not where we want it to be…yet. She “assumed” the responsibility to “save” the tour. Though I don’t think an individual can single-handedly turn things around, the remarkable actions of one person can serve as the tipping point. However, it’s unfair and unreasonable to bank on a specific person or occurrence.

Point being, I’m hesitant to agree with Brandon. I’m all for women playing with the men if they are physically and emotionally prepared to compete. And maybe Alexis can. But we need to be careful before we subject her, or any teen for that matter, to that limelight. Lest we forget, there’s a high price to pay when prodigies fail to immediately fulfill their expectations. I understand Brandon is trying to say there’s no time like the present given she’s Junior Golf’s “It” Girl. But I say, wait a year or two – at the very least. This shouldn’t solely be a publicity stunt – especially one that can easily do more harm than good.

[Photo via Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]