Lexi Thompson: Anatomy of a Player

Two weeks after Lexi Thompson won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, her brother, Nicholas, came to town to try to win the CIMB Classic, the PGA Tour event, on the very same golf course. This was so bizarre in its timing, it made me wonder if he ended up staying the same resort hotel room too.

In any event, Nicholas knew that he was going to get a lot of questions about this “ships-passing-in-the-night” story. When Chris Reimer, the on-site PGA Tour media guy went out to find Nicholas during his practice round, Nicholas’ first words were:

Let me guess, you want to talk about Lexi. 

Later, back in the media center, Reimer’s first question got right to the heart of the matter:

Q. We’ll just go ahead and get it over with, but it’s rare that a brother and sister would compete not only just on the LPGA Tour and on the PGA TOUR but at the same resort.  Talk about her success and growing up with two good golfers in the family.

It’s a pretty exciting deal.  Actually there’s three good golfers in the family [including middle brother, Curtis], and unfortunately I’m the least talented.

But it’s pretty cool.  I mean, we had the opportunity in 2012 to do the same thing in Dubai, where she won at the end of 2011 and I played the beginning of 2012 and played well there.  She won here two weeks ago, and I look forward to trying to bring a title home and making a great story.

The conversation naturally turned quickly to the fact that teen phenom, Lydia Ko, after having won four professional golf tournaments as an amateur, had just announced that she was finally turning pro. What did Nicholas think of that?

Well, congratulations to her.  She’s played unbelievable, and she’s very deserving of turning pro no matter what her age is.  I know she’s proved herself over and over against the ladies, and she’s obviously proved mentally that she can do it and physically.

So it’s the same case as my sister, where it’s time.  They’re mature beyond their age and they’re ready to go.  I mean, she was ready to go earlier.  I think my sister turned at 15.

How old is Lydia, 16?  She was ready at like the same time as my sister.  I don’t know exactly why she didn’t, but I mean, congratulations to her, and she’s going to have a good career.

And that begged the question why it had worked for Lexi and Lydia but not for Michelle Wie, although it could be argued that Michelle merely delayed her development as a professional by trying to get her degree at Stanford. While carrying a full load of classes, she could not have had the time one needs to devote to the professional game. Indeed, the time that everybody else is. She found enough time to at least be competitive on the LPGA, just not as dominant as her talent had always promised.

The further we get from the grand accomplishment of her Stanford graduation, the more we’ll know. Her move to Jupiter, Florida, and her performances in the Solheim Cup suggest a rekindled devotion to her calling.

You know, that’s a good question.  I mean, I can speak for my sister.  My sister came from a golfing family.  My parents knew with me — when my sister turned pro, I had already had five years on one of the two either PGA TOUR or Nationwide Tour, and they saw what it was about and how it was and how to go about it best, and I think that helped prepare them to help prepare her.

But I mean, my sister had really no intentions of chasing men’s events or anything of that nature.  She just wanted to focus on playing a smaller schedule and she turned professional right away because she wasn’t technically an LPGA member.

And I think that was really good in the fact that that got her foot wet.  She didn’t just jump in headfirst and play 24 events that year.  She played like eight or nine, ten, whatever it was.  I don’t even know.  But it was a very small, limited schedule, and I think that helped dipping her toe in the water and getting her ready for it, because she’s still learning.  She’s learning to play a full schedule, travel overseas multiple times a year.  It’s getting better and better, and you’re only going to really see good things come out of that.  She’s going to get better and better.

So what is the one reason for the success of Nicholas and his sister?

Hard work, and we’ve driven each other.

So what exactly did he mean by hard work? Was it hitting thousands of balls…?

No, it’s not about hitting thousands of balls.  It’s about playing around day in and day out, good competition.  I mean, between me, her and my brother, we have unbelievable matches at home.  We’ve played a lot of golf together, and we’ve driven each other.  When she needed a little help, I’d give her a little help.

Otherwise, I mean, we’re just all competitive people.  We were kind of raised that way.  I don’t like losing to her.  I know she doesn’t like losing to me.  So it just drives you harder and harder.

So just constant playing?

A lot of playing and short game.  Not so much beating golf balls on the range, but short game, wedges, chipping, putting, and playing a lot.

With all of this roiling competitiveness, is there any jealousy?

No, there’s no jealousy whatsoever between all of us.  It’s more a fact that you want to win.  I don’t care — it’s not because it’s my sister, it’s because it’s another golfer.  I don’t want to get beat by anybody, let alone my sister.

So Curtis is always on the golf course too?

Oh, yeah.  He’s a junior at LSU.  He’s got another year and a half of college and college golf, and then hopefully he’ll make his way right up here.

With Lexi ranked No. 14 in the world and Nicholas No. 191 out of Georgia Tech, it will be interesting to see what happens after Curtis graduates and the whole family is reunited in the demanding world of professional golf.

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