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After surprise retirement, Lexi Thompson opens up on ‘lonely’ struggle



After surprise retirement, Lexi Thompson opens up on 'lonely' struggle

Lexi Thompson’s stunning retirement got here with a heart-wrenching motive.

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LANCASTER, Pa. — On Tuesday on the U.S. Ladies’s Open as with most days, the gang stared at Lexi Thompson.

And on Tuesday as with most days, Lexi stared proper again.

Lexi! LEXI!!!” they yelled, one after the following, a endless stream of memento flags and selfie requests testing the bounds of the ropeline, little arms poking via like little bayonets, every pointed sq. at Thompson’s chest. Each autograph signed and photograph taken spawned one other three, and earlier than lengthy the gang started to really feel much less like a bunch of people and extra like a steadily rising, amorphous blob of wanting. Nevertheless it didn’t matter. For a couple of moments, Lexi wished, too — not the gang’s consideration or admiration, however to interrupt the bubble between her world and theirs.

And so she did.

If there’s a method the crowds will keep in mind Thompson, it’s for her persistence. Persistence that has allowed her to host hundreds of autograph periods like this one all through a 17-year aggressive profession, which she introduced Tuesday will conclude at finish of this season. Persistence that has allowed her to attach with tens of hundreds of individuals exterior of the ropes, a lot of them younger ladies, with a small gesture of goodwill. And persistence that has allowed her to do all of these items even within the wake of a number of the golf world’s most unimaginable lows — lows that she addressed for the primary time throughout a press convention saying her retirement on U.S. Ladies’s Open Tuesday.

“Being out right here is usually a lot,” she stated via tears. “It may be lonely. Sorry if I get emotional. I stated I wasn’t going to.”

I nonetheless keep in mind the primary time I witnessed Lexi’s reward for persistence. It was on the 2022 U.S. Ladies’s Open at Pine Needles, minutes after Thompson had fallen quick once more on the largest stage within the ladies’s sport, ending T20 in a bid to undo the earlier 12 months’s collapse. She signed autographs for near half-hour then, tears streaming down her face, stopping solely as soon as every of the women contained in the child-only space had acquired her consideration. I keep in mind the latest time I’d witnessed it, too, on the Solheim Cup in Spain final September. One other devastating defeat, extra tears, and another similarity: a couple of dozen younger women who departed with autographs and smiles.

These scenes felt exceptional on the time and this one, Tuesday morning, felt exceptional too, given Thompson was saying her determination to retire from a “full-time enjoying schedule.” She’s a child by skilled golf requirements, simply 29 years outdated in a sport the place many gamers don’t hit their primes till nicely into their 30s. However she’s an historic 29 by life expertise, 17 years right into a profession that has introduced her fabulous wealth and, on multiple event, unfathomable heartbreak.

Generally the load of a golf profession might be measured not in wins, losses and accidents, however in scars, and as Lexi opened up on “years” of struggles on Tuesday afternoon, it was clear the latter finally proved crippling.

“I simply assume, particularly with what’s occurred in golf, as of not too long ago, too, lots of people don’t understand what we undergo as knowledgeable athlete,” Thompson stated. “I’ll be the final one to say, throw me a pity social gathering. That’s the very last thing I need. We’re doing what we love. We’re attempting the perfect each single day. You realize, we’re not excellent. We’re people. Phrases harm. It’s laborious to beat typically.”

Lexi’s humanity has by no means been trigger for debate; the examples of her flawed brilliance are too many to depend. There have been the back-nine collapses on the ’21 U.S. Open at Olympic and the ’22 Ladies’s PGA, the prolonged go away of absence on the top of her powers for causes associated to psychological well being, and who may neglect the TV-viewer controversy on the 2017 ANA Inspiration that price her the match, later altering the principles of golf?

However humanity additionally comes at a value. For all her affection among the many followers, Lexi has had an embattled relationship with the general public. She has earned a fame among the many press for avoiding questions after her largest setbacks, and even Tuesday’s retirement “letter” featured a reference to what she referred to as an “unfair” profession. Whereas her largest moments have revealed her to be fallible, her quiet moments have led some to accuse her of being fragile, or worse, missing accountability. On Tuesday, although, Thompson’s retirement presser featured none of these qualities.

“I may not have an enormous buddy group, however to have the those that matter probably the most round me have gotten me via some actually laborious occasions,” she stated. “I believe it’s loads for everybody out right here or in any skilled sport. Lots of people don’t know what we undergo. The quantity of coaching and laborious work that we put ourselves via, it’s loads. I believe we deserve much more credit score than what we get.”

Maybe these have been the phrases of a participant who’s come to grips together with her personal {golfing} mortality. Or maybe they have been the phrases of somebody who, after 17 adolescence within the golf fishbowl, has realized that life continues after the aggressive heartbreak stops.

“The toughest second of my profession was like a blessing as a result of it was simply I discovered a lot and I gained followers that I by no means thought I might have,” she stated on the finish of her press convention, welling up once more as she recalled catastrophe on the ANA. “I’m not going to sit down right here and say that second didn’t harm. It nonetheless does, but it surely’s a part of a profession.”

As her Tuesday observe spherical reached its conclusion, Thompson stared out into the gang. Her mother and father had funneled into the again of the inexperienced together with her canine in tow. Legions of her fellow opponents cooed praises from the observe vary simply toes away, whereas a crowd waited for her with near-unanimous pleasure.

If this was the end result of her profession, Lexi Thompson appeared comfortable. She had spent a lifetime trying to find one thing, and it turned out she’d had all of it alongside.

It was proper there on the opposite aspect of the ropes, staring her straight within the face.

You’ll be able to attain the writer at [email protected]

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a information and options editor at GOLF, writing tales for the web site and journal. He manages the Sizzling Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and makes use of his on-camera expertise throughout the model’s platforms. Previous to becoming a member of GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse College, throughout which era he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Lengthy Island, the place he’s from. He might be reached at [email protected].

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