Golf

Thompson ready to live out her Olympic dream

Golfer Lexi Thompson poses for photos at the 2016 Team USA Media Summit Mon., March 7, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Golfer Lexi Thompson poses for photos at the 2016 Team USA Media Summit Mon., March 7, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. AP

For Lexi Thompson, all that remains is being fitted for her red, white and blue Olympic uniform.

Thompson, who grew up in Coral Springs wandering the golf courses of South Florida, is a lock to make the U.S. team, as she is currently ranked No. 4 in the world and is the top-ranked American.

“I think it’s amazing,” Thompson said of her assured Olympic berth after finishing fourth at this weekend’s LPGA Meijer Classic in Belmont, Michigan.

“It’s a wonderful experience to be able to say you’re an Olympian. It’s an honor to represent your country in any tournament. To be an Olympian is the highest honor.

“I’ve always said growing up, anytime I can represent my country, it’s the highest honor. But growing up I wasn’t able to say I could be an Olympic golfer.”

As a kid, there were no Olympic dreams for Thompson because the last time golf was an Olympic sport was more than a century ago in 1904. But it was reinstated for this year.

“Now that I can become an Olympian, it’s a dream come true,” Thompson said. “I don’t understand why people don’t get that. Winning a gold medal would be higher than anything, any win, anywhere.”

The women’s and men’s 60-player teams will be announced (in Thompson’s case it amounts to a coronation) on July 11, with the competition in Rio de Janeiro being held in mid-August. All players in the top 15 in the world rankings for both women and men qualify with one caveat — a country can only have a total of four golfers.

Competition at the Olympics will only be individual, with no team medals being awarded.

Along with Thompson, the other possibilities to represent the U.S. women’s team would include Stacy Lewis (No. 10 in the world), Gerina Piller (No. 16), Cristie Kerr (No. 20 and from Miami), Jessica Korda (No. 24) and Brittany Lincicome (No. 25).

Leading contenders for the U.S. men’s team would be Jordan Spieth (No. 2 in the world), Dustin Johnson (No. 3), Bubba Watson (No. 5), Rickie Fowler (No. 6), Patrick Reed (No. 13) and Brooks Koepka (No. 15, and like Thompson, also from Palm Beach).

Thompson has made her glee about golf becoming an Olympic sport well-known.

“I think it shows how much golf is growing as a sport,” said Thompson, who is a seven-time winner on the LPGA Tour.

Although only 21, Thompson has been a staple of South Florida golf and on the LPGA for what seems like a lifetime. That’s because she moved to the forefront early and has just kept on going, so much so that she has earned $5,239,123 in her career with $711,325 of it coming this year.

Even though Thompson has played the LPGA Tour for so long it seems as though it is about time for her to retire, don’t kid yourself — there is plenty of time and there are plenty of huge drives (a trademark of her game) left in her.

How quickly did she progress in her golf career? At age 12, in 2007, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open Championship — not the Junior Open, but the real one — against all the elite golfers in the world. Her résumé also includes one major, the Kraft Nabisco in 2014.

The U.S. Open at age 12 left a particular mark in Thompson’s mind.

“I don’t think I realized what I did when I qualified,” she recalled. “But once I was there and seeing the role models I looked up to, it was an amazing experience. I didn’t make the cut, obviously, but I stayed there and signed every autograph. I just wanted to soak it all in.”

Thompson was asked whether she was getting autographs, giving them or doing both during that Open.

“No, I was giving them,” she said with a laugh. “The few people who wanted them.”

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