June 19 — Sherri Steinhauer sat atop the leaderboard at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, but all eyes were on the new kid on the tee, Alexis Thompson.
The 15-year-old wunderkind bogeyed her first hole as a professional, an unfamiliar miscue that she chalked up to nerves.
Shakin’ all over. “I was probably shaking and then I should have taken more time over [a short par putt on the first-hole],” Thompson said to reporters following her even-par round of 71 at Dolce Seaview Resort’s Bay Course in Galloway, NJ. “So you learn from that. I never did that again today.”
Welcome back. Having a better opening round was LPGA star Paula Creamer, playing in her first event in about four months since a thumb injury and subsequent surgery put her on the disabled list. The popular Creamer carded six birdies on her way to a 4-under 67, three off Steinhauer’s pace.
“It doesn’t feel too bad, considering,” Creamer told reporters following her round on Friday. “I had some shots out there that I definitely felt it on; others, it’s manageable. But overall, today was pretty good. I hit some ‘beauties’ and I hit some really good shots.”
Creamer had already posted a birdie on her first hole Saturday morning, moving her to 5-under for the tourney.
Living the dream. As for Thompson, the young phenom said she has wanted to turn professional for more than a year, her father and caddie, Scott Thompson, said after his daughter’s undefeated turn at last week’s Curtis Cup at Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.
After all, it’s not as if Lexi (as her parents and new sponsor, Cobra-Puma Golf, call her) has stars in her eyes playing with the big kids. At 12, she was the youngest girl ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, a feat she has accomplished each year since. Indeed, she will tee it up in another Open championship at Oakmont Country Club next month.
Thompson will also play several tourneys on sponsors’ exemptions, as she is doing this weekend, and, at this point, will not pester the LPGA for special permission to join the tour. Women must be at least 18 years old to qualify.
That age suits some young golfers just fine. Morgan Pressel, who attained special permission to play professionally at age 17, believes Thompson needs more time.
More than golf. “For me, there are so many other things out here than just playing golf,” Pressel told GolfWeek’s Beth Ann Baldry. “There’s dealing with the media, sponsors, being able to handle yourself around your peers, older people we play with in pro-ams. Fifteen just seems very, very young.”
For New England golfer Liz Janangelo, the issue went beyond Thompson’s undisputed ability.
Duke All-American. “Alexis is an incredible golfer with quite the resume,” Janangelo told Boston Golf Examiner in a phone interview. “I wish her well, but I didn’t go that route. I really wanted to go to college and have the full experience because you never know what will happen.”
A standout junior and amateur golfer and four-time, first-team All-American at Duke University, the 27-year-old Janangelo was 2-over at the ShopRite heading into the weekend.
The boys are teeing it up this week in the U.S. Open. Read how the devilish 14th hole at Pebble Beach was giving the world’s best fits.