Excuse me while I roll my eyes as I write this, but I’m not really clear why Alexis “Lexi” Thompson being denied a special exemption to play in Monday’s final qualifier for the Women’s Open has become such a hot topic. In fact, I largely ignored it until I got so bombarded with headlines and little tidbits via my Twitter feed that I finally decided to look into what the fuss was about. Then it got me a tad riled up because my initial instinct had been correct. So, why are Lexi’s handlers making such a big deal out of it?
From what I understand, Lexi, who finished T2 at last week’s Evian Masters, earned an exemption into final qualifying as a member of the Curtis Cup. But when the 15-year-old decided to turn pro and give up her amateur status, she also gave up the invitation — which was clearly stated on the materials. Because the pre-qualifier conflicted with the US Women’s Open, she — or her handlers — requested a special exemption into the final qualifying and it was denied.
While it’s unfortunate that one of golf’s young stars — who is playing very well and a draw to the game — will be missing out on a major, it was part of the deal when she turned pro. In two events, Lexi has earned $314,842. I’m sure she’s well aware that when you cash in, there are sometimes negative by-products. And I’m sure she’d rather keep the money and sit out this major. Plus she’s only 15 and will have dozens of opportunities to play in the British Open. (Just to be clear, I’m not crucifying Lexi here — it’s my understanding that it wasn’t Lexi making a fuss that caused this to become the great controversy of the week.)
Oh, here’s the best part — so, the Ladies’ Golf Union, which probably should have just granted Lexi the exemption (and perhaps wish they did in retrospect), indirectly blamed Michelle Wie, who was given a special exemption when she was still an amateur in 2005, for the situation. Via the Independent:
Shona Malcolm, the chief executive of the Ladies Golf Union, insisted there was nothing the governing body could do to accommodate Thompson and revealed it was the preferential treatment of Wie which led to them adopting strict criteria. When Wie was 15 she received a “special exemption” into the Women’s British Open, ironically held at Birkdale, where she was to finish third. “We have tightened up our regulations since then because of other players’ criticisms over that exemption,” said Malcolm.
For real? Now that’s what actually got me the most fired up. Let’s leave Michelle out of this storm.
Again, it is a shame Lexi won’t be in the field this week, but it is going to be alright. I’m sure we’ll see her shine again at another tournament very soon.
That said, my flight to Seattle is boarding.