Sixteen-year-old Thompson receives LPGA membership

Sixteen-year-old Alexis “Lexi” Thompson, who became the youngest-ever winner of an LPGA event last month, has had her petition for LPGA Tour membership approved by commissioner Michael Whan, the association announced Friday.

Thompson’s management team had asked the LPGA to waive the tour’s rule requiring members be at least 18 years old after her win two weeks ago at the Navistar LPGA Classic – at the age of 16 years, 7 months and 8 days old.

Lexi Thompson, the 16-year-old who won her first LPGA tournament in September, was granted tour membership as of Februrary, when she will have turned 17. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

Thompson will become a full LPGA member in 2012. She will turn 17 on Feb. 10, likely before she plays in her first tournament next year.

Before her victory, which propelled her into the Top 50 of the Rolex World Rankings, Thompson had received the OK from Whan to attempt to qualify for membership through the three stages of the tour’s qualifying tournament.

She won the first stage, then withdrew from the second stage, leading to speculation that Whan would allow her to join the tour next year.

“Lexi Thompson is a unique talent who has continued to grow, develop and mature both on and off the golf course since turning professional in 2010,” Whan said in a statement. “Her ability to handle the success and disappointment inherent to this game testifies to a level of maturity that I believe makes her capable of handling the emotional rigors of professional golf.”

When Thompson won at the Navistar LPGA Classic, the field included 15 of the top 20 players in the world rankings and 45 of the top 50 money-winners on the tour. The victory qualified her for the season-ending Titleholders event next month in Orlando, Fla.

“Clearly, there is great enthusiasm and excitement as Lexi begins her LPGA career,” Whan said. “I think her future is bright and I hope she makes the most of this opportunity.”

Thompson, of Coral Springs, Fla., is in her junior year taking high school classes at home.

Thompson first burst on to the national golf scene when she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at the age of 12, the youngest player ever to do that.

She was allowed to receive a maximum of six sponsor exemptions for LPGA events this year, including one at the ShopRite LPGA Classic at the Seaview Resort near Atlantic City.

She showed up for a ShopRite media outing in May one day after blowing a big final-round lead at the Avnet Classic in Mobile, Ala. She handled all the questions about the Avnet calmly and maturely.

--Joe Juliano