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Florida teen turns pro

JACKSONVILLE — Lexi Thompson proved she was good enough to play on the LPGA Tour as a 16-year-old when she beat a strong field by five shots two weeks ago. She was granted membership Friday based on more than birdies and bogeys.

Commissioner Mike Whan approved Thompson's petition to become the tour's youngest member, effective in January.

Whan said he was impressed with how Thompson, of Coral Springs, handled herself in all aspects of tour life.

"I've seen her at press conferences," Whan said. "I've seen her when she played well; I've seen her when she hasn't played too well. I've seen her at pro-am parties. I've seen her when fans are coming up to her when it's maybe not the best time."

Thompson filed a petition Thursday that the LPGA waive its policy that members must be at least 18. Whan approved it, though he described that more as a formality. The bigger decision came in June, when he let Thompson compete in qualifying school.

She won the first stage by 10 shots, then went to the tour's Navistar Classic in Alabama and won by five shots against a field that included 45 of the top 50 players on the money list.

Thompson withdrew from the second stage of qualifying school before filing her petition. By then, it was clear to everyone — from Thompson to the tour — that she would be on the tour in 2012.

Thompson was on vacation in California when she got the news.

"It's been amazing," she said in a conference call. "It's always been my dream to play on the tour full time. Getting that win, it was the best experience of my life. I've enjoyed every minute of it."

Officially her membership doesn't begin until February. But when it does, she will be the LPGA's youngest cardholder in 44 years. Michelle Wie played events at 13 but was not a tour member. Thompson's first event came at age 12 in the 2007 U.S. Women's Open.

EUROPEAN: Tommy Fleetwood and Michael Hoey left a trail of big names behind them, sharing the second-round lead at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

Fleetwood, atop the second-tier Challenge Tour rankings, shot 9-under 63 at Kingsbarns, where first-round leader Hoey shot a second straight 66. They both had 12-under totals of 132.

Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was one shot back after 67 in unseasonably warm conditions at Carnoustie. The tournament features three courses — St. Andrews is the third — with golfers playing each course once through today before finishing Sunday at St. Andrews.

PGA: Kevin Na shot 63 to tie Jhonattan Vegas (67) and Charlie Wi (66) for the lead after two rounds of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. They were at 12-under 130. Brendan Steele, Tim Herron and Kris Blanks were a shot back. Hunter Haas shot 10-under 61 to tie the course record and join an eight-way tie at 132. The round was suspended by darkness with one player, Fran Quinn, unable to finish. The cut will be made after he finishes, and threesomes will tee off on No. 1 and No. 10 today.

champions: Corey Pavin carded 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead in the opening round of the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C. Nick Price, Gary Hallberg, Kenny Perry and defending champion Russ Cochran were tied for second.

Florida teen turns pro 09/30/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 30, 2011 10:37pm]
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