[PHOTO: David Cannon]

An unexpected post appeared on the USGA’s social media accounts on Tuesday during US Women’s Open week announcing that Lexi Thompson plans to retire at the end of the 2024 season.

Thompson, 29, has been an important part of the tour for more than a decade, turning professional in 2010 as a 15-year-old and joining the LPGA Tour in 2012. The 11-time LPGA winner has been consistently popular among fans. Both current and former LPGA players see clearly the effect she’s had on women’s golf.

Retiring Lexi Thompson doesn’t want a ‘pity party’, but says life on tour is lonely and ‘words hurt’

“Lexi’s been amazing for the game,” Juli Inkster told Golf Digest via text. Inkster got to know Thompson while being her captain for three Solheim Cups.

“She’s done everything right,” Inkster said. “She goes to the pro-am parties, signs autographs and gives her time to different charities. She was one of my favourite people to have on all three of my Solheims. She loves representing her country. She will be deeply missed on the course.”

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Lexi Thompson signs autographs at the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. [Photo: Elsa]
Inkster isn’t the only one who noticed how well Thompson treats her fans. As a junior golfer, Jennifer Kupcho once saw Thompson play.

“I remember how welcoming she was, and giving autographs because I was a kid there wanting an autograph,” Kupcho said. “Coming out here, I made sure to do that, too, to make time for the fans.”

Rose Zhang, a two-time LPGA winner, was also influenced by Thompson as a junior golfer.

“I 100 percent looked up to her,” Zhang said. “She really encouraged the women’s game and elevated it. It’s sad to see her go.”

Zhang got to know Thompson by playing on a Solheim Cup team with her and playing in The Match with Thompson, Rory McIlroy and Max Homa.

“She’s such a kind soul. Even though she has this big name, she works out so much, has so much dedication to her fitness and golf,” Zhang said. “It’s crazy how mild and sweet she is off the course. I’m super excited for her. I know she’s inspired not only me and almost everyone on this tour.”

Lexi Thompson announces her retirement

Thompson’s work ethic was noted by other players, too.

“I don’t know if I know anyone who has had that much success, and still works harder than anybody,” said Angel Yin, another tour winner.

Australia’s Gabi Ruffels, an LPGA rookie, has seen the results of that hard work up close.

“Her power game, off the tee – I played with her at the Chevron one year. She just hits bombs,” Ruffels said. “Her iron play is amazing, it’s super-high. It’s quite impressive. She will be missed. She’s had such a huge impact on women’s golf.”

All of the effort Thompson has put into her game and into being present for the fans has made her, and the LPGA Tour, more popular.

“I think she does an amazing job for the tour,” said current world No.1 Nelly Korda. “She spends so much time going to each pro-am party. She really dedicated her time to growing the game. It’s sad to see that she’s obviously leaving and not going to be out here with us anymore, but she’s had an amazing career, and I wish her the best in this new chapter of her life.”