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In the dreary golf-parenting business today, there's no couple like Scott and Judy Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla. Their oldest, Nicholas, 28, is a tour pro with a homemade swing and more than $3 million in earnings. Curtis, 18, is a freshman at LSU on a full-ride golf scholarship. Lexi, 16, turned pro last June and the next month finished second in the Evian Masters, earning nearly $250,000. The kids inherited the golf gene from Judy, who played junior golf in South Florida in the 1970s. It was Scott who gave them their edge.
At tournaments, on those large electronic scoreboards, Nick is sometimes identified as the brother of Lexi Thompson. After Curtis mocked him for that, Nick said, "If I'm the brother, you know what that makes you? The brother's brother."
Scott Thompson is übercompetitive. He's not trying to win any popularity contests. He can't stand how LPGA courses are set up, to penalize bombers like his daughter. "I get so tired," he says, "seeing Lexi hit her hybrid past the other girls' drivers." She has played in seven LPGA events.
Scott is nothing like your AJGA parent from central casting. He's 49 and has a teenager's temper. His grammar would make any English teacher shudder. He hasn't read Training a Tiger (but he wishes he could have met its author, Earl Woods). He doesn't know about C.B. Macdonald or the Redan hole at North Berwick. An enjoyable golf conversation for him is imagining the construction of the perfect golfer by combining Lexi's discipline, Curtis's hands and Nick's heart. He's impatient. When Lexi started beating him at age nine, he quit golf. "That ain't fun," he says. His philosophy is to play golf to win or not at all. The guy's alive. The kids are too.
In 2007, when Lexi was 12, she became the youngest golfer to play in a U.S. Open. On the driving range Cristie Kerr walked by Lexi and said, "Have fun." When she left, Lexi turned to her father and said, "Yeah, right. I'm here to play good."
The parents, Lexi and Curtis live next to the 12th hole of TPC Eagle Trace, where the Honda Classic was played for years. Nick grew up there and recently bought a house nearby. Now the Honda is held 45 minutes north, at PGA National. Nick played there in the 2008, '09 and '10 Honda events. Last year Curtis, as a man-boy of 17, missed Monday qualifying for the tournament by a shot. Lexi has been there a bunch over the years, checking out the various driving-range actions. She swings like a man. She learned to play by trying to keep up with Nick and Curtis. She's always ready when it's her turn to play, and she putts with her glove on.
Last week Nick, who lost his PGA Tour card last year, was in the field at the rain-plagued Nationwide stop in Bogotá, Colombia. On very short notice Curtis, a freshman, decided to make a quick trip home. Lexi was having the most productive week. On Thursday a Cobra equipment guy drove from PGA National to Eagle Trace to have her check out a new three-metal. On Friday she had the new stick in her bag when she played in a one-day, low-level mini-tour event. The field featured 59 men and one teenage girl.
The event was held on a housing-development course called the Links at Madison Green. The organizers had Lexi play the par-72 course at about 6,700 yards, 200 yards shorter than the setup for the men. There was no rough, but the greens were fast and the palm trees were doing the wave. Her father was her cart driver and caddie. She made the turn at three under par. She was in position to win. First-place money was $975, but it wasn't about the money. It was about grinding out a round and beating everybody else.
She made a bogey on 10, her first of the day. She ripped a drive on 11, a short par-5, close to 270 yards into the wind. She had about 240 to the hole. Lexi wanted to lay up. Father talked daughter into going for it. Out came the new three-metal from an old Cobra carry bag, its ball pocket hand-marked LEXI THOMPSON in block letters with a black Sharpie, written by the golfer herself. She pushed the shot badly and slapped her hip hard. Her ball stopped on a dreadful hardpan lie about 10 yards short and 30 yards right of the pin. She took four more from there. Her caddie stood on the edge of the green, legs crossed, flagstick in hand and spat, mad at himself, taking the blame. Lexi shot 72, four shots behind the winner.
The next day father and daughter had an introductory session with Gio Valiante, a sports psychologist and the author of Fearless Golf. They liked him. They plan to watch the video version of the book, and they'll be going back for more.