Spotlight on Golf

Golfer Lexi Thompson’s first LPGA major win is a major confidence booster

 
 
Lexi Thompson jumps into Poppy's Pond after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship golf tournament Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Lexi Thompson jumps into Poppy's Pond after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship golf tournament Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson / AP

Special to the Miami Herald

The distance from Coral Springs to Rancho Mirage, Calif., is a long, long ways, some 2,600 miles.

However, Lexi Thompson, at age 19, loves both places.

Coral Springs is her home, the place where she grew up and learned how to play golf — and play it extremely well. Rancho Mirage is the place where she accomplished one of her all-time goals of winning a LPGA major, which she did Sunday by winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club.

“This is what I’ve worked my whole life for and practiced my butt off for,” Thompson said.

Then she added that her first major will hopefully lead to even bigger things.

“I think winning this tournament has helped out my confidence a lot,” Thompson added. “I’ve always imagined winning this tournament and how I would win it, but it’s a dream come true.

“But it doesn’t change who I am. It obviously changes my confidence going into each event, but I’m still going to practice and work on improving stuff in my game that needs to be improved on.”

Thompson has been playing golf in South Florida for so long it seems improbable that she is still only 19. A long and prosperous future has and will be beckoning her.

By prosperous, we mean she already has made more than $3 million in tournament winnings from the LPGA and other tours. Throw in a few endorsements and you can figure out she’s living comfortably.

And she is not the only standout golfer in the Thompson family. Her two brothers, Nick and Curtis, are also both successes at whacking a golf ball. Older brother Nick is an up-and-coming standout on the PGA Tour, and younger brother Curtis is a top player at LSU who has won the Dixie Amateur twice.

Father Scott, who is the one who first taught his kids the game, and mother Judy have been in the gallery for almost all of the big moments over the years. Actually, at various times, Scott has caddied for all three of them.

The stress at the end of the Kraft Nabisco was minimal as Lexi held a four-stroke lead as she teed off on No. 18 and finished with a three-shot victory over Michelle Wie. That sort of lead allowed Lexi the time to celebrate and feel good in her mind even though she said, “I actually didn’t look at the leaderboard. I looked at one on No. 9 and didn’t look at one the whole back nine. I figured I had a few-shot lead, but I just played aggressive.”

However, for Lexi, there actually was one stressful part of winning at Mission Hills.

Tradition calls for the winner to jump into Poppie’s Pond, which is just off the 18th green.

“The first time I thought about it,” Lexi said, “was going up to the 18th green. I just kind of went for it, made sure I jumped in far enough into the deep part, and I guess I did a cannonball. I just jumped.”

Once in the water, she savored the experience.

“It was a little cold,” she said, “but it felt really good because it was so hot. It was probably about 90 [degrees] out. But it was everything I imagined.”

A major, even if you are soaking wet, will do that for you.

THAT’S A FACT, JACK

Bob Ford holds the record for the longest putt made in tournament golf. During the International Four-Ball Pro-Am tournament in 1976 he holed a 140-foot, 2¾-inch putt at St. Andrews’ 18th hole.

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Runner up: Craig Lee 2012: Richie Ramsay (267). Runner up: Fredrik Andersson Hed, Marcus Fraser, Danny Willett, Romain Wattel 2011: Thomas Bjorn (264). Runner up: Martin Kaymer 2010: Miguel Angel Jimenez (263). Runner up: Edoardo Molinari 2009: Alexander Noren (264). Runner up: Bradley Dredge 2008: *Jean-Francois Lucquin (271). Runner up: Rory McIlroy 2007: *Brett Rumford (268). Runner up: Phillip Archer 2006: Bradley Dredge (267). Runner up: Francesco Molinari, Marcel Siem 2005: Sergio Garcia (270). Runner up: Peter Gustafsson 2004: Luke Donald (265). Runner up: Miguel Angel Jimenez 2003: Ernie Els (267). Runner up: Michael Campbell 2002: Robert Karlsson (270). Runner up: Trevor Immelman, Paul Lawrie 2001: Ricardo Gonzalez (268). Runner up: Soren Hansen 2000: Eduardo Romero (261). Runner up: Thomas Bjorn 1999: Lee Westwood (270). Runner up: Thomas Bjorn 1998: *Sven Struver (263). Runner up: Patrik Sjoland 1997: Costantino Rocca (266). 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European Ryder cup team captain Paul McGinley stands by a list of his chosen players during a press conference at Wentworth Golf Club to announce his three wild card selections for his team to play at Gleneagles in Scotland against the USA, in Wentworth England, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.

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