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Lexi Thompson has had a storied career in golf. She has won eight professional tournaments with six of them on the LPGA Tour, including a major in the 2014 Kraft Nabisco (formerly the Dinah Shore and currently the ANA Inspiration). She has played in nine consecutive U.S. Women’s Open championships, compiled a 4-0-0 record for the winning U.S. amateur team in the 2010 Curtis Cup, and has twice represented the U.S. in the Solheim Cup, compiling a 3-2-2 record (1-2-0 in 2013 and 2-0-2 in 2105 when the U.S. regained the Cup).

In 117 events on the LPGA Tour, Lexi has made the cut 97 times with 35 Top 10’s; in 24 starts in 2015, she made the cut 23 times, had 13 Top 10’s (including three in the majors), and won twice. She has amassed $4,574,510 in career earnings. Last year alone she won $1,763,904, good for fifth on the LPGA Tour, and ended the year fourth in the Rolex World Rankings and third in the Race to the CME Globe.

What makes these achievements all the more remarkable is that Lexi accomplished all of this before her 21st birthday, which was February 10.

Lexi started smacking golf balls at the age of six, and at 12, she became the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, an event in which she has participated every year since 2007. In 2011 at 16 years, seven months, and eight days, she was the youngest woman (until 15-year-old Lydia Ko) to win an event on the LPGA Tour, the Navistar LPGA Classic. Three months later she became the second youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour at the Dubai Ladies Masters. In September of 2011 at the age of 16, her petition to join the LPGA before the mandated age of 18 was approved, and Lexi joined the Tour in 2012.

I had the opportunity to spend two hours with Lexi at the PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day this past January in Orlando. It was an eye-opener for me. For those 120 minutes (including the 10 uninterrupted minutes she spent with me), she was besieged by those who wanted her do something special for them. At five feet eleven inches with blonde hair and striking blue eyes, Lexi is arrestingly attractive and radiant, and throughout that entire time period, she remained enthusiastic, pleasant, and articulate.

She had two interviews with Golf Channel announcers and two more interviews with other networks. She spent about 45 minutes with 41 children, ages 13 and under, from the Orlando-area PGA Jr. League, giving a shotmaking clinic, talking about golf, and then taking selfies with the kids, all of whom adored her. She couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating.

Then she headed to the Cobra Puma spot on the practice tee and gave a clinic to the SRO crowd of adults. She was smashing drives close to 300 yards and explaining in detail what she was trying to do. She even took a fan from the crowd who hit long wide slices, changed a few things in his swing, and watched him hit long, in-play draws. The assemblage went wild with applause. Lexi had certainly captured our attention and our admiration.

Lexi’s two older brothers are also professional golfers, Nick on the PGA Tour and Curtis on the Web.com.

Appropriately enough, Lexi’s maxim on her website is “Follow your dreams!”

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NEGM: How do you spend your “free” time while you’re on the road?

LT: I like to spend what free time I have relaxing and having fun. Jaye Marie Green is my closest friend out there, and we like to hang out together quite a bit. We’ll frequently go to the movies, do some bowling, and go to dinner. Often, other players will join us.

NEGM: Who are the most enjoyable competitors to play with? The toughest competitors?

LT: I enjoy playing with just about everybody out there for the most part, but I always enjoy playing with Jaye Marie Green and Brittany Lincicome. We’ll talk in between shots, which makes the round more pleasurable.

[Big laugh] I’m not going to answer that one! We’re all tough in our own ways, and we all love to focus on our own games.

NEGM: What are your favorite tournaments on Tour? The one you most want to win in 2016?

LT: Two in particular. The U.S. Women’s Open has been a favorite of mine for years, and the ANA Inspiration is my all-time favorite and my first major win as well. I really like the atmosphere and the competition at both events.

Oh, no question about it. The U.S. Women’s Open is the one tournament I want to win. I’ve been playing in it since I was 12 years old. [Best finish is T-7 in 2014]

NEGM: Where do you feel you need improvement?

LT: I feel that my game has improved dramatically, especially in the past year, in the parts I needed to work on. I feel very comfortable now with my full swings—driver, woods, and irons. [2015: 1st in GIR at 77.23%; 4th in driving distance at 267.64 yards; 4th in scoring at 70.01] With my short game, in particular, I have worked extremely hard during the off season, so we’ll see this year how much progress I have made. The short game, as you know, is really what the game on Tour comes down to.

NEGM: What are your goals for 2016?

LT: To continue to play with consistency and dependability. That has been my overall one goal since the end of the 2012 season. [World rank 24th in 2012, 9th in 2013, 10th in 2014, and 4th in 2015] Last year I was very pleased with my steadiness of play and with my two wins. [Meijer LPGA Classic; LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship] I’ve also spent a lot of time on the mental side of the game, and I think that has really helped my consistency the most. This year I will go into every tournament with a positive attitude, and I will certainly enter every tournament wanting to win. We’ll see.

NEGM: You’ve been with Cobra Puma since you turned pro in 2010. What is your relationship with Cobra Puma? With Rickie Fowler?

LT: The relationship has been just great! As you said, I’ve been with the Cobra Puma team since I turned professional, and it has been such an amazing company to be partnered with—a very fun and active and young company. The Cobra Puma philosophy has perfectly complemented my personality and my attitude toward life. I feel great on the course in the apparel, and the equipment just keeps getting better and better each and every year. So, I love being a part of Cobra Puma in all respects.

Rickie is just a great guy, so entertaining to be around. He’s full of energy and is cracking jokes all the time. I love to watch his swing, too. He and I really enjoy representing Cobra Puma and getting to spend some time together when we can.

NEGM: Who are your other sponsors?

LT: Red Bull, Zurich Insurance Group, Lexus, Rolex, and EA Sports.

NEGM: What charities/institutions do you support?

LT: I work mostly with the Wounded Warrior Project [Lexi wears a WWP pin on her shirt], the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and junior golf although I also support some local charities on Tour throughout the year.

I love to spend time with the kids through the PGA Jr. League and the LPGA and USGA’s Girls Golf initiative. I know how important it is to get these children involved in the game at such a young age, and these programs are very meaningful to me. I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they are hitting balls or asking me questions about golf or life or even when we are taking selfies as we did this morning at the PGA Jr. League clinic. The future of the game rests in those smiles, I believe.

NEGM: Who would be in your Dream Foursome?

LT: Hmm. Anybody I want? OK. I haven’t played with Tiger Woods. That would be amazing. Michael Jackson, I’ve been a fan of his since I was a little girl. And my celebrity crush is Channing Tatum.

NEGM: What advice do you have for young girls who would like to emulate you and become competitive golfers?

LT: My advice to them would be, first of all, to have fun playing the game. You’ve got to love the game to be successful at it. To find a coach, a teacher, or a parent that you trust for advice and help. To get out on the course as often as possible and start with productive practice sessions—with friends if possible. And then play with these friends and have little competitions along the way to stay focused. Next would be to play in real competitions and always think about what needs to be done to get your game to the next level. It is absolutely necessary to enjoy the game, but you have to realize that golf is not an easy game. However, if you commit yourself and then stay with it, your goals should take care of themselves.

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