Lexi Thompson watches her tee shot on the 11th hole in the third round of the U.S. Women's Open Championship at Trump National Golf Club on July 15, 2017 in Bedminster, N.J.
Lexi Thompson nearly watched her life come full circle this past weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Competing at Trump National Golf Course in New Jersey, the 22-year-old Olympian battled through a highly competitive field and also experienced an emotional visit from her mother, who is battling uterine cancer. Thompson also had President Donald Trump watch her putt during the second round, and once again proved to be the fan favorite.
It was a myriad of emotions for Thompson, who finished tied for 27th, a disappointment to her as well as numerous followers who believed the third-ranked player in the world would be in contention.
Thompson was in the running through the first two days of the tournament, shooting 1-under 71 on the opening day and playing par golf on day two. But she had a 2-over 74 on day three and was even again on the final day.
In some ways, the tournament was a microcosm of her life as of late.
“It was a mental grind, and I definitely wasn’t on my game this week,” Thompson said. “But I battled hard to put consistent scores up. It was a tough course, but it was in perfect shape. It was the U.S. Open, and it is a big stage like the Olympics. It was mentally draining, and the weekend always makes a lot of people nervous. You just have to focus on your game."
“It might be a temporary setback, but I am very thankful for the support of everyone. There was a lot going on here, and it certainly was a challenge to keep focused. It reminded me what life can be about and how we need to keep everything in front of us.”
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Thompson was emotionally touched by the visit of her mother, Judy, who made her first tournament appearance since she received a diagnosis of uterine cancer in May. She underwent a hysterectomy in June to remove the malignancy and finished her radiation treatments a week before the U.S. Open.
Judy walked nearly the entire course on the opening day that featured high temperatures and high humidity. Lexi finished the day five strokes off the lead.
“I was focusing on playing well on the first day,” she said. “But I had my mom here, and I wanted to enjoy the time with her and make sure she was fine. It was an emotional time, but she truly has inspired me.
“My mother is the strongest person that I know. It has been an emotional few months for everyone in the family.”
Fellow LPGA tour veteran Cristie Kerr spoke admirably of Thompson.
“She has been dealing with a big issue in her life, and she has maintained her game,” Kerr said. “She is a strong and confident person. We are all behind her.”
Thompson also was appreciative of fan support throughout the tournament. Numerous children who carried signs of support and wore shirts with her name were among the large crowds that followed her throughout the tournament.
“She had the biggest following of all the golfers,” said Greg Babin, an official at the seventh hole. “People really like her. Lexi always is very friendly and pleasant. She takes time out of her game to greet people.”
Thompson relishes the constant support.
“That never gets old,” she said. “That makes my day, especially with everything going on. I was taken aback by the kids who had ‘Lexi’ on the back of their t-shirts. It’s a big lift to hear the fans cheer me on and also to see the smiles on their faces.
“People have braved the elements to follow along, and that speaks wonders for what kind of fans we have.”
Thompson obviously noticed the swing of attention from the players to President Trump, who arrived during the second day of the tournament. Trump watched from his penthouse at the 16th hole and gave a thumbs up to Thompson and a handful of other golfers who passed through.
“All of a sudden, the fans shifted their attention away from the golf,” Thompson said. “It was a little bit more crowded at that tee box, but I love playing in front of a lot of people. It was a little bit louder, too, but I grew up with two older brothers who always made noise on my backswing.”
Thompson has played recreationally with President Trump in the past, and she admittedly has a good relationship with him.
“I am always pretty comfortable being around him,” she said. “I have gotten to play with him quite a bit. He plays very quickly, and it’s a good time. Also, it is definitely an entertaining time.”
In the process, Thompson also maintained her status to make her third appearance on the U.S. Solheim Cup team in August. She also plans to continue her trek and keep everything in its proper perspective.
“I have to get back on the trail,” Thompson said. “My family has helped me to get to where I am today. This is a meaningful time for me and I know I can grow in many ways. Golf will certainly help me along the way.”
Jeff Moeller is a sportswriter from New Jersey. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.