ORLANDO, Fla. - As he fine tunes the 2011 schedule, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan has another issue on his plate. Alexis Thompson, the 15-year-old who turned pro this year and finished second in the Evian Masters, has petitioned the LPGA for more sponsor exemptions than the six non-members currently are allowed.
Thompson is requesting 12 sponsor exemptions to allow her to compete more often, but she is not asking for a waiver of the minimum age of 18 to become an LPGA member. (Aree Song and Morgan Pressel are the only golfers who have received such a waiver.)
Thompson's agent, Bobby Kruesler of Blue Giraffe Sports, told golfchannel.com's Randall Mell Friday that the petition for more sponsor exemptions was done with the hope that the LPGA would "create a clear structure with which to deal with these special talents and situations, not only to benefit Lexi, but, moving forward, to benefit those young players who come behind Lexi, because this issue is not going away."
One LPGA star, Cristie Kerr, who turned pro when she was 18 and joined the LPGA Tour at 19, acknowledged Thompson's talent but expressed concern about her getting special dispensation.
"I mean, getting more exemptions also give her more opportunities to win a tournament, which would allow her to be a member," Kerr said after the second round of the LPGA Tour Championship. "The Q-school is there for a reason. There's a process that everybody has to go through ... I don't think it would be a good idea to just say, 'hey, because you're you, you get six more exemptions. This is an unusual case, but I don't know. At the same time, she's an American and it would be great seeing another American playing well, but where does it stop if you open the floodgates? The tour has got bigger problems than to worry about that right now."
UPDATE: Pressel, who joined the LPGA when she was 17 after getting a waiver on the minimum age for membership, said: "I think it's interesting. I was going to be 18 in the middle of the season when I petitioned. It just happened that my birthday fell in the middle of the year. But It's a different situation. I guess they feel she's ready and they want her to play more. She's a great player -- top 10 at the [U.S. Women's] Open, second at Evian. She's clearly a very talented player, so we'll see what happens."
-- Bill Fields