Story and photographs By Kim McHugh
To say that Lexi Thompson is a fierce competitor is to say that Nolan Arenado likes playing third base for the Rockies. Introduced by Sammie Chergo, Executive Director of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, the LPGA Tour standout was excitedly received by a crowd of nearly two hundred girls, big and little brothers, and parents at the CoBank Colorado Open “Girls Only” Clinic at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club.
“I grew up with two older brothers that really liked golf, said Thompson. “We would hit chip shots, aim for targets or have putting contests with the winner getting out of having to do chores around the house. So I learned to be very competitive at an early age. They always got me pumped up to compete.”
Hanging on every word Thompson uttered, the audience of young girls, which was largely comprised of those involved in The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch, learned more about the rising star, who in 2007, at age 12, became youngest golfer ever to qualify to play in the U.S. Women’s Open.
As an amateur, the now-22-year-old had back-to-back wins of the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship (2003-2004), was a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2007 and in 2008 won the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. She turned professional in June 2010 at age 15 and has since racked up eight LPGA Tour victories, including one major at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Thompson, sporting a new pair of red, white and blue Puma golf shoes—the ones she’ll wear during the 2017 Solheim Cup—was asked by a little girl if there was a time she had to show respect for a competitor, even though it may have been hard.
“Showing respect is something that is very important,” explained the three-time member of the Solheim Cup team. “That is a very intense week (of matches) where sometimes you just hate the other team because you just want to beat them. But it is important to respect their game and, for example, not chant while they are getting ready to hit.”
She continued by saying what an incredible honor and privilege it is to represent her country in the Solheim Cup and at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she tied for 19th place. Thompson then entertained the crowd by hitting a half-dozen monster drives and showing her short game proficiency by chipping a few balls into the mouth of a 20-foot-high inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rex about 50 yards away.
Thompson fielded questions from the audience, such as how to recover quickly from hitting bad shots during a round, how to build confidence in yourself and in your game, and how to apply the First Tee core values of Honesty and Integrity both on and off the golf course.
“When the ball moves, you must be honest with yourself and your fellow competitors by saying it did, and you have to be truthful about your score. Off the golf course you know it is important to tell the truth, because you’ll feel a lot better about yourself.”
Besides crediting her mom, dad and brothers for being such ardent supporters, Thompson tipped her Red Bull visor to mentors and heroes, Nancy Lopez and Juli Inkster, the latter of whom will again captain Team USA in the Solheim Cup this weekend (August 18–20) at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa.
When the exhibition ended, Thompson demonstrated great class and humility by sitting in the summer heat signing hundreds of event programs, tee shirts and ball caps, and posing for photographs for those making that request.
This marks the second year of CoBank Kids Clinics. Staged in conjunction with the Colorado Open Golf Foundation, CoBank and The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch, they take place in advance of the CoBank Colorado Open and CoBank Colorado Women’s Open. Last year, CoBank’s first as title sponsor, Hale Irwin also appeared before the CoBank Colorado Senior Open.