Forget what you think you know about golf—Lexi Thompson is shaking things up on and off the course
When you think of golf, you automatically think "sexy" and "action-packed," right? Just kidding. But the sport that's usually thought of as the pastime of retired men is certainly getting an image overhaul thanks to one six-foot, 20-year old female force to be reckoned with. Lexi Thompson, the youngest golfer ever to qualify to play in the U.S. Women's Open (at age 12!), is well on her way to becoming a household name, and she's shaking up the golf world in the process.
Yes, she's making headlines for her game—just last weekend in South Korea she won another LPGA championship, a win projected to move her ranking from fifth in the world to fourth. But she's also garnering attention for her impressive (and undeniable sexy) sponsorships and magazine shoots, including a hot tub commercial for Puma and her recent, topless Golf Digest cover (which earned her a mention in SNL’s Weekend Update). In other words, Thompson is giving anyone who thinks golf is boring, or a 'guy's game', a run for their money. Get to know this athlete to watch—from how she reacts to body shamers to what she tells herself before stepping up to the tee. (And check out this behind-the-scenes video of Thompson!)
Shape: Your two older brothers are also pro golfers. When did you first get into the game?
Lexi Thompson (LT): I started golfing when I was five. We grew up on a golf course. When I started, my brothers were really into it, and we were always very competitive with each other. They were pretty tough on me—they made me tough mentally and physically, on and off the golf course.
Shape: What's your stance on wearing makeup or doing your hair while you're out playing? Where would you say you fall on the girly/tomboy spectrum?
LT: I don't wear any real makeup while I’m playing, only sunscreen and chapstick, and I wear my hair in a ponytail. It’s usually too hot and humid for any of that stuff! Having grown up with my two older brothers, I'm much more of a tomboy than girly, but I do like to get dressed up and put on my high heels from time to time—for the right events.
Shape: You’re now 20, but have been in the spotlight since you were 12. Do you feel like you’ve been able to find some normalcy amidst all of that?
LT: My life is definitely different than a normal 20-year-old’s life, but it’s been amazing. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m still a normal girl when I'm off the golf course!
Shape: But, of course, the average 20-year-old doesn't have 101,000 followers! Do you find that Instagram is a mostly empowering community?
LT: Social media can be really tough. Overall, my fans are truly amazing, they are so supportive and positive. But there are those individuals who just like to say negative things about everything, no matter what it is. And sometimes they say things that are really hurtful. And even with all the positive comments, they can be hard to ignore.
Shape: You stirred up some controversy this year when you posed topless (but covered in a towel) for the cover of Golf Digest. How did you react to all of that?
LT: You see more at the beach in bathing suits than you do in that cover. It’s an honor for me to represent women athletes and women in general. We tried workout gear, but I felt like the one we went with was the stronger photo. It made a statement. It was pretty awesome to be a part of.
Shape: Body confidence is such a huge part of female empowerment these days, especially with athletes. Was there ever a point growing up where you felt insecure about your body?
LT: I did feel very insecure about my body growing up, and like most women, I still do sometimes. But I 've become more comfortable with my body as I’ve been able to work out more and concentrate on eating healthier. When I won my very first LPGA event in 2011, I realized that all my hard work was paying off, and that all my workouts and training on my body had prepared me for that moment. (Next, find out how LPGA Player Brooke Pancake Stays in Swinging Shape.)
Shape: What muscles—and types of workouts—are important to focus on to stay on top of your game?
LT: I’ve been working with a trainer focusing on core and lower-body to build power for my golf swing. I do 20 minutes of cardio every day—I bike a lot when I go to the gym since it’s easier on my body instead of running, or I’ll jump rope—and then I focus on flexibility with band work, and balance moves with a BOSU ball. Anything that helps with rotation while keeping my core stabilized helps me gain distance off the tee.
Shape: How do you make sure you maintain your fitness when you're traveling for tournaments?
LT: When I’m on the road, I usually just use the hotel gym to make sure I get my cardio in and I always bring SKLZ bands with me. I’ll put those around my leg and do side squats. And I make sure I’m stretching a lot and using a foam roller.
Shape: How do you stay fueled?
LT: I’ll have yogurt with protein powder and granola. I make sure I have a good amount of protein. And I always have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, two Quest bars, and trail mix with me.
Shape: Do you still get nervous before a big tournament? Do you have any tricks to calm your nerves?
LT: I definitely still get a little bit nervous. I reassure myself with positive thoughts that I’m playing great and going to do great. I do some breathing exercises—five to 10 minutes of good, deep breaths—before I head on the golf course to warm up. And I’m always trying to pump myself up by finding something positive to say to myself—‘You’re a great putter’, ‘You’re a great ball striker’ or ‘Believe in yourself.’
Shape: Golf is stereotypically thought of as a man’s sport. Do you feel pressure to be a role model to young girls who want to be the next Lexi?
LT: I don’t really feel any pressure. The women’s game is growing tremendously. I’m part of the LPGA Girls Golf program, and I see tons of little girls picking up a club and getting into the game. The game is getting younger and a lot of girls are getting into it. It’s great to be a role model. I’m just doing what I love—I want to show that I went after my dreams.