'I Said I Would Only Play If They Made The Story About The Kids To Show That No Dream Is Too Big' – Lexi Thompson On Playing Golf With The Men, Making The 2024 Solheim Cup Team And Chasing Olympic Gold

Lexi Thompson remains one of golf's most popular characters despite a spell of indifferent form. Here, she opens up on her love of team events, her desire to win and her appearance in the PGA Tour's Shriners Children's Open

Lexi Thompson doffing her cap
Lexi Thompson has enjoyed a stellar career so far and, at just 29, she has a lot more to give
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With such an enduring presence on the LPGA Tour, it’s hard to believe that Lexi Thompson is still only 29 years old. But let’s not forget that her golf journey began at an exceptionally early age when, at 12, she became the youngest player ever to qualify for the US Women’s Open before turning professional at just 15.

Florida-based Thompson grew up living on a golf course, where her two older brothers, Nicholas and Curtis, also played. “I knew at the age of ten that I wanted to fully commit to golf, practise relentlessly, and make it my livelihood,” she says with a focused and determined demeanour that resonates throughout our conversation. 

Growing up, golf consumed Thompson’s life. She was homeschooled and made numerous childhood sacrifices to pursue her ambition of becoming one of the world’s best female golfers. She acknowledges that her dedication was a mindset not suitable for every kid; she prioritised playing golf over other experiences, choosing not to attend college and explore various social aspects.

When asked if she would have done anything differently reflecting on her younger years, Thompson muses, “Maybe going to college would have been fun. I visited my brother at Louisiana State University a few times and I feel I would have enjoyed it, but at the same time, I believe I would have lost my talent if I’d taken that route. I wouldn’t have been able to go out and practise for six to eight hours a day every day, which I’d done since the age of 12. It would have been a very different way of life, but you can definitely take on college and be an amazing athlete – that shows in a lot of people.

“I would say that I didn’t get the social experiences growing up that a lot of people have because of homeschooling and not going to college, but, through travel and meeting so many incredible people, I matured at a young age.”

lexi thompson celebrating

Thompson winning the ShopRite LPGA Classic in 2019

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A short-lived record

Thompson swiftly validated her discipline and hard work as she secured the first of 11 tour titles to date in the Navistar LPGA Classic at the age of 16. This achievement broke the record for the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour – a record she held for only 11 months until Lydia Ko won at just 15.

The 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship remains a standout moment for her, fulfilling a childhood dream to win a Major title with her family by her side. Despite her accomplishments in golf, she expresses the greatest pride in being family-oriented and grounded. “I know people can change through experiences,” she says, “but I’ve grown up with such an amazing, supportive family and circle around me who I love dearly, and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.”

This genuine appreciation contributes to her standing as one of the most popular players in women’s golf. That sentiment is further reinforced by her receipt of the 2023 Founders Award, a testament to her embodiment of the spirit, ideals, and values of the LPGA, as recognised by her peers.

With a commanding height of six feet, Thompson’s striking stature makes her a marketing dream. Demonstrating unwavering loyalty, she has been a Cobra Puma ambassador since turning pro in 2010 and provides valuable feedback on equipment and apparel, contributing to the goal of ensuring maximum comfort for her and other players.

Thompson has not been in the winners’ circle since claiming the ShopRite LPGA Classic in 2019. She faced heartbreak at the 2021 US Women’s Open, having led towards the end of the front nine in the final round by five shots, only to fall away and shoot a five-over 41 on the back nine to miss out on a play-off by one stroke. But she possesses a special asset in her resilience and ability to rebound and disregard critics, showcasing admirable strength of character in what can be such a cruel game at times. 

This was particularly evident last year when Thompson faced a challenging start to her season, leading to concerns about her potentially being a weak link in the US Solheim Cup team. Such doubts would place major pressure on any player, especially considering the magnitude of the event. Stepping onto the 1st tee at Finca Cortesin in Spain, how did she handle it?

“It’s a very difficult thing to do, but I’ve been in the spotlight for a while, so when you know that’s the case, it’s more about focusing on your own expectations and goals,” she explains.” I knew I wasn’t playing well going into it, but I worked my butt off to get on that team. I wanted to represent my country the best that I could and I went there and played some great golf alongside my teammates.

lexi thompson jumps into pond at Kraft Nabisco

After winning the Kraft Nabisco in 2014

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Competing with the men

Thompson also attributes her subsequent consistent form in the season-ending events to her strong performance under the immense pressure of the Solheim Cup. This included a sponsor’s invitation to the Shriners Children’s Open, making her only the fifth female in the modern era – and seventh overall – to play in a PGA Tour event. Commendable rounds of 73 and 69 were not enough for her to make the cut, but beyond merely showcasing women’s golf talent on the big stage, the fan-favourite wanted to convey an additional message.

“I said that I would only play if they made the story about the bigger picture – the kids – to show that no dream is too big. It wasn’t really about me competing against the men. I’ve grown up playing with my brothers and their friends, so it’s a comfortable environment for me. Of course I wanted to play well and try and beat them, but this was more about me just following a dream to play in a men’s event of this calibre, and to show kids that they can go after whatever they want.”

Recently, Thompson brought Colton Heisey on board as her full-time caddie, marking a departure from having a family member on the bag. Heisey was alongside her for three top-ten finishes in the latter half of the 2023 season, and she believes her game is in a strong position to sustain the consistency she achieved towards the end of last year. 

“Every time I tee up, my number one goal is to win. I know that if I can go out there and play consistent golf, I’ll put myself in a winning position,” she says and then laughs. “Maybe not every week. Golf is a crazy game. It can be different every single day, but I’ll continue pushing through and working hard to go after those small goals and hopefully be on those teams.” 

lexi thompson at the 2023 Solheim Cup

In action at Finca Cortesin during the 2023 Solheim Cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

An Olympic and Solheim year

The team events Thompson is referring to are the Solheim Cup and Olympics and it’s her ultimate goal to represent the USA at both this year. Expressing genuine enthusiasm, she declares the Solheim Cup as her favourite tournament. “Words cannot describe the atmosphere. We don’t often get the opportunity to be part of a team, working together and rooting for each other. There’s just nothing like it.” 

At the 2023 Solheim Cup, which marked Thompson’s sixth appearance, she was a veteran at 28 in the youngest ever US team. “It was a very different team than past years, a lot younger but with great energy. Everybody got along, there was no drama, so a really good atmosphere.”

While it’s premature to predict the age composition of the 2024 team, she anticipates a similar dynamic, but remarks, “You never know; someone might have a standout performance in the first half of the year, or multiple individuals could do that. Regardless, whoever makes the team, we’ll set aside any differences to create the best team possible.”

Reflecting on the changes in women’s golf since turning pro almost 15 years ago, Thompson emphasises the remarkable depth of young talent. “It has been great to see the addition of tournaments, more sponsors and bigger prize purses, but the amount of talent out there is amazing,” she says. “Of course, there has always been talent over the years, but it keeps getting better and better and younger, which says wonders about all the golf programmes they have now. We’re also gaining a lot of TV time, which shows the game is moving in the right direction, especially on the women’s side, which was much-needed.”

With a tattoo of the five Olympic rings on her wrist, Thompson doesn’t have to look very far to remind herself of the other tournament that she holds so dearly. “Once I made the team in Rio in 2016, I got my first tattoo. I now have four in total on my wrists. I feel like every Olympian has it, right? Every day this is a reminder of how much hard work I’ve put into my life and the sacrifices I’ve made to achieve my goals. This was a goal that I didn’t think was possible because golf was not always an Olympic sport, so once that came about, I was like ‘I have to be there’.” 

lexi thompson at the rio 2016 olympics

Lexi at the Rio Olympics in 2016

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Embracing fitness

Other than golf and the love for her family, there is only one other subject that Thompson chats about so passionately and that’s fitness, which has become a huge part of her life. She explains that when she was about 15 years old, she found herself getting tired towards the end of a round so decided to start working out to gain strength, not necessarily to hit the ball further, but to get through her rounds with greater ease. 

“It kind of became an addiction,” says Thompson, who is even considering launching her own fitness app featuring daily workouts, specific golf drills and practice sessions. “Exercise is so important for me, not only physically but mentally too. I can go to the gym before a round or after a round, listen to my music and get my mind right. I like being surrounded by people who are trying to improve themselves as well. That’s a big part of it for me, whether it’s the beginning of the process or at the end. People who are trying to improve things are really just getting their mind right and that’s very important.” 

It’s evident that Thompson remains as determined for success as ever. She acknowledges that some days are naturally tougher to find motivation, yet she’s always ready for the challenge.

“Every day there’s always something to improve on, whether it’s the smallest thing mental-wise, in the gym or on the golf course. That’s also what drives golfers crazy – we can never perfect the game. There’s always something to be done, but once you push through and achieve something, it’s worth all the challenges.”

Alison Root

Alison Root has over 25 years experience working in media and events, predominantly dedicated to golf, in particular the women’s game. Until 2020, for over a decade Alison edited Women & Golf magazine and website, and is now the full-time Women's Editor for Golf Monthly. Alison is a respected and leading voice in the women's game, overseeing content that communicates to active golfers from grassroots through to the professional scene, and developing collaborative relationships to widen Golf Monthly's female audience across all platforms to elevate women's golf to a new level. She is a 16-handicap golfer (should be better) and despite having had the fantastic opportunity to play some of the best golf courses around the world, Kingsbarns in Scotland is her favourite.