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The Thompsons bristle at the misconception that Lexi has always been homeschooled, like she was "some kind of lab experiment" in Judy's words. Judy says that the Broward Virtual On-Line School mirrors the curriculum of other Florida high schools, and she feels that in many ways it provides a superior education because of the one-on-one oversight from the instructors Lexi corresponds with on the Internet. Playing a global game can be its own kind of education. When Thompson was competing in the Ladies German Open in May, she visited the Dachau concentration camp, which she had recently read about in her studies. Other side trips are less sobering. Lexi got a big, wet kiss for her 16th birthday, but it was from a sea lion during a private tour of an animal park in Australia. The Florida girl saw snow for the first time at an indoor mall in Dubai. "Sometimes my life is kind of magical," she says. "I definitely know how lucky I am to have these experiences."
Blame Curtis if there are smudges on the TVs in the Thompsons' big, beige home. An ardent student of the golf swing, he has always liked to put video of his action on the screen and then critique it with a dry-erase pen. For Lexi, this is scarier than any slasher film. "I don't like to look at my swing," she says. "I don't know what's good or bad, I simply know how it's supposed to feel. I look at the target, picture the shot I want to hit and swing. That's it. I don't overthink it."
Why should she? "Lexi's had the same swing since she was nine," says Nicholas. "There have been some refinements, but my dad's not going to let anyone mess up what works so well."
Earlier this year Lexi suffered through her first real slump, which coincided with too much tinkering. In addition to changing her diet and beginning to work with a trainer, she had started seeing a sports psychologist while also making minor swing alterations. In July, after having missed the cut in three straight LPGA events, Thompson had the wherewithal to call a team meeting. "I said I wanted to forget all this new stuff and go back to practicing, just me and my dad," she says. "I can't think of too many things at one time. I need to keep it simple."
Two months later she made history at the Navistar, with her father serving as faithful caddie. Scott likes to keep a low profile and declined to be interviewed for this story, but there was no hiding the emotion that poured out of him after Lexi's victory. Judy was watching at home on TV, crying into the phone with Nicholas.
They are a close family, with each kid reveling in the success of the other. Lexi and her mom think nothing of driving three hours to cheer on one of the brothers. Nicholas bought his own house at Eagle Trace, four holes from his parents. (Judy has been known to mow the lawn for him.) When Nicholas is home, he tees it up with his sister, giving her a shot a side. When he's on the road, he rings his folks every day. Judy calls her daughter "my best friend"—when Lexi recently declared that she would like to live on her own by age 18, her mom shot her a look of such anguish that Lexi hastily said, "Uh, maybe I'll wait until I'm 20." For all the family's success, the Thompsons enjoy a good reputation in the cliquish South Florida golf scene. "I don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy those kids," says Mike Donald, the well-traveled runner-up at the 1990 U.S. Open who plays Eagle Trace five or six days a week. "They're simply good people. They were raised right."
Golf has been an avenue for teaching proper manners. Years ago Curtis crashed a golf cart at a junior event, so his peeved parents yanked him out of the tournament and made him return the next day to serve as a volunteer. Lexi has also been pulled out of a competition, in her case for pouting during the pro-am; she was ordered to stay at the hotel and do schoolwork while her dad went to the course to cheer on a friend and fellow competitor of Lexi's who had traveled to Texas with the Thompsons.
It's easy to fret about any gifted young athlete who is thrust prematurely into the adult world, but at least Thompson has a supportive workplace. "It's a testament to what a good head she has on her shoulders that she's friends with so many of the other players," says Tiffany Joh, the runner-up at the Navistar. "She has brought the same excitement to our tour that Tiger Woods brought to his. Lexi has that kind of charisma. It would be easy to be jealous, but she's such a sweet person you have no choice but to like her and hope she succeeds. Golf may be a selfish sport, but I think all the players understand how great Lexi is for the LPGA." In the wake of Thompson's victory a bunch of the players spontaneously took to Twitter to riff on the topic #WhenLexiWasBorn. (Joh's tweet: "I had mastered cursive.")
So far, there have been only minor complications dealing with the newfound fame and fortune. "After I won, a couple kids at home I barely know were like, 'I guess [lunch at] Chipotle is on you now,'" says Thompson. "That was kind of annoying."
Judy never worries about her daughter's game—she knows it will take care of itself, with the help of the rest of her golf-mad family. As Lexi is introduced to the wider world, this doting mom has only one simple wish: "We want people to know she's a nice, normal girl." Anything else? "Hopefully," says Judy, "this story will help her get a date to the prom."