Alexis Thompson, 15, of Coral Springs, Fla., will be the youngest member of the 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team. But this is nothing new for the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, who in 2007 at 12 years, 5 months, became the youngest U.S. Women’s Open qualifier and later that summer the youngest quarterfinalist in U.S. Women’s Amateur history. The home-schooled teenager has already competed in five women’s professional majors and has announced that the Curtis Cup will be her final amateur competition. She will make her professional debut at the Shop Rite Classic in New Jersey following the Match. With older brother Nicholas having competed in the 2005 Walker Cup, Alexis joins an elite group of four pairs of siblings to represent the USA at the Walker/Curtis Cup. Thompson recently chatted with USGA communications staff writer David Shefter about being named to the team and her post-Match future.
What were your emotions when the call came?
Thompson: When she first called, I was actually sleeping. I was like, Oh man, this is the phone call. I was just really excited.
Most people had you on the team, but was the wait a little excruciating?
Thompson: I thought [the team] was going to be announced a lot earlier. So now I have to think about it and have to wait for Kraft [Nabisco Championship] and now I am going to try to do well at Kraft. I sort of put it in the back of my mind when I was playing, but it’s a great honor to be playing in it, and I am looking forward to it.
Only three siblings had enjoyed a Walker/Curtis Cup combination and now you are the fourth, joining Terri and Griff Moody, Kelli and Trip Kuehne, and Paige and Brock Mackenzie. What has Nicholas told you about his Walker Cup experience and what to possibly expect at the Curtis Cup?
Thompson: He said that was the best tournament he’s ever played in, and my dad said it was the best tournament to watch. So I am looking forward to playing and having the crowds watch. I actually haven’t talked to [Nicholas] yet. [He said] just representing the United States is an honor. And having that experience is just great.
How many team international events have you played in?
Thompson: Three. Junior Ryder Cup, Junior Solheim Cup and Spirit International. The Junior Ryder Cup was at Old Stone in Kentucky. The Solheim Cup was outside of Chicago.
What was fun about those events?
Thompson: I like playing team events and having a partner. Representing your country is really serious and I like that. It was a lot of fun for me.
Those two events gave you an opportunity to play foursomes (alternate shot). Do you like that format and what type of golfer matches up well for you in that format?
Thompson: It depends on who you are playing with because you sort of feel bad if you hit a bad shot. ‘Oh sorry, now you have to go hit my shot.’ You just have to go and play each shot and hope for the best… Probably a good putter [would match up well with me]. I’ve done it with [2010 Curtis Cup Team member] Jessica Korda and we worked well together.
With Jessica Korda on the team, is she someone you would like to be paired with?
Thompson: That would be really good because our games are sort of similar and we know we would work well together… I would think best ball (four ball) would work well because we make a good amount of birdies.
How is your game shaping up at the moment?
Thompson: My game was really good at the Kraft. I’ve gotten a little bit longer and I’m hitting it a little bit straighter. It’s just my putting is struggling a little bit, but I am working on it.
What things have you done in practice sessions with instructor Jim McLean to get your game more polished and consistent?
Thompson: What I’ve been working on with my ball striking is just getting my tempo right. I’m not swinging too fast and out of control. That’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about. Like I just figured out my ball position was wrong and now I am hitting it a lot better. It’s just basics.
You’ve played three U.S. Women’s Opens, two Krafts and one Australian Open, so you’ve experienced crowds and pressure. How will that help you at the Curtis Cup, which offers a different kind of pressure?
Thompson: I actually like playing in front of people. I like crowds. It sort of makes me play better.
Talk about going to Australia to play.
Thompson: I had never been out of the United States before. It was a long trip. Fourteen hours on a plane is definitely a little tiring. It was a great experience. Everybody was so nice to me there and the golf course was really good. I just had a lot of fun and I played pretty well.
It’s come out that the Curtis Cup will be your last amateur event. What made you decide to turn pro now over waiting another year?
Thompson: I think I am ready. I’m doing pretty good in LPGA [Tour] events now. I’m just getting more experience. I think I’ll do pretty good out there. I am looking forward to playing against these girls and playing all these great golf courses that I see on TV.
How much did you consult with older brother Nicholas, who plays on the PGA Tour and can offer advice about being a touring pro?
Thompson: It was pretty much me and my dad. I didn’t really talk to Nick about it at all. I am not too sure what he thinks… I definitely learned a lot watching him. I know there’s going to be my bad tournaments and you just have to get through them, and know that there’s another week.
Any sadness about leaving the amateur game?
Thompson: I know that I am going to be missing my amateur events. I likely was going to play on the Junior Ryder Cup team [in Wales] if I wasn’t going pro. I am looking forward to it. I am looking forward to taking my game to the next level and just playing against the best in the world.
Do you have a schedule planned out?
Thompson: Not yet. I know I am playing Shop Rite, which is right after Curtis Cup. That’s going to be my first event. That’s all I know so far. Hopefully I’ll be at the [Women’s Open].
Do you have plans to play overseas?
Thompson: Yeah. At the end of the year, I think I am going to Japan.
What about the differences of playing for a check versus just competing for fun and experience?
Thompson: It’s going to be a lot different. It sort of stinks because the LPGA events that I have played in I would have made like $20,000 for top-20 [finishes]. Oh man, I would have liked that money. I would actually like to get that money.
Any idea what your first purchase will be after cashing that initial check?
Thompson: I don’t know. I would help out my parents first.
Obviously, it’s not cheap to play in elite amateur competitions.
Thompson: They’ve told me the amount of money that they’ve spent on us (includes brothers Nicholas and Curtis) and it is a lot!
Competing as a professional will mean playing clubs that conform to the new groove rules. You got a chance to do that in Australia and at Kraft. Did it make a difference?
Thompson: I have been playing them since December of last year. I’ve used them in every tournament, including all my junior tournaments. [There’s] not really [much difference] on normal shots out of the fairway. In the rough, you notice they don’t want to stop at all. And you get more flyers. Once you get in the rough with these new grooves, you are not in good shape.
Have you been to Boston before and if not, is there one part of the city you want to visit while at the Curtis Cup?
Thompson: I don’t think I have been to Boston. I heard it’s nice there. I don’t really know if I’ll be able to do anything else besides the practicing and playing. They might have stuff set up for us after our rounds.
I know you are home-schooled, so despite turning pro, do you still have plans to finish high school online?
Thompson: Yes. I am a freshman. I think you can [accelerate the process] a little bit, but not by a few years.
With two pros in the family come the middle of June, will Curtis (middle child) feel a little odd?
Thompson: I don’t know. He’s looking forward to going to college. He’s going to LSU. I think he’ll do well there. He loves the coach.
Was college ever an option for you?
Thompson: No. It might be in the future. I might take college courses [online]. You never know.