LAST time LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson teed it up in a men’s event, she took home the winner’s cheque and a trophy.
That was in 2011 when the then 16-year-old shot 4-under 68 at her home course in a Florida mini-tour event.
That tied her for top spot and she went on to win a sudden death playoff and grab the $1,100 prize.
Fast forward five years and the now 21-year-old has amassed more than $5,416,369 on the LPGA and is again ready to take on the men at this week’s Franklin Templeton Shootout.
The two-person teams event will see Thompson pair with the unorthodox Bryson DeChambeau for 54 holes of modified alternate shot, best ball and ambrose formats.
While this week’s shootout is essentially an exhibition event (though sanctioned by the PGA Tour), Thompson is merely the latest woman to create headlines for teeing it up in a men’s event.
Most will recall 2003 when the most dominant player in the women’s game at the time, Annika Sorenstam, accepted an invitation to play the PGA Tour’s Colonial tournament in Texas.
The move created immediate controversy with one of the world’s best players at the time, Vijay Singh, making his feelings known in no uncertain terms.
“She doesn’t belong out here,” Singh said. “If I’m drawn with her, which I won’t be, I won’t play.”
Singh ended up not playing that week, withdrawing in an apparent protest at Sorenstam’s inclusion, but Sorenstam made a big impact.
Despite missing the cut, the Swedish superstar earned the respect of millions and says, to this day, it is the golf achievement she is most remembered for.
The publicity generated by Sorenstam’s appearance at Colonial clearly got tournament promoters thinking and, less than a year later, another female golfer would make international headlines for competing in a PGA Tour event.
Michelle Wie was an uber talented 14-year-old amateur when she was invited to play the 2004 Sony Open in her home state of Hawaii.
She played a practice round with Ernie “The Big Easy” Els, who gushed about her talent, and the similarities in the pair’s golf swings earned her the nickname “The Big Wiesy”.
Wie acquitted herself extraordinarily well that week, missing the cut by a single shot and beating home more than 30 PGA Tour professionals.
The performance clearly gave her confidence because she accepted seven more PGA Tour invitations over the next four years though never came as close to playing the weekend again (though she did make the cut in an Asian Tour event in 2005).
Less than a month after Wie’s appearance in Hawaii, it was the turn of Australian golf fans to get a taste of what was becoming somewhat of a fad.
The ANZ Championship was a European Tour co-sanctioned event played at the Horizons Golf Club near Newcastle, north of Sydney.
Played under a modified stableford format, the tournament failed to attract many of the genuine stars of the time but the addition of big-hitting Laura Davies to the field did wonders for pre-tournament publicity.
The English superstar, a regular visitor to Australia at that time of year, accepted an invitation to play the tournament having teed it up previously in an ALPG event at the same course.
"This is a new challenge for me and something I will absolutely enjoy,” she said in the lead up. “It will be great fun. I'm not trying to prove anything, I just fancied the idea of playing.
"I'm not saying I'm going to make the cut, but I've got more chance in this one (modified stableford) than a regular tournament.
“I like Horizons, it's a good layout and obviously the format is really appealing."
As it turned out, Davies struggled mightily and beat home just one player after two days with stroke scores of 75-83.
While all of these appearances have come in the television era, the first woman to actually tee it up in an officially sanctioned men’s golf tournament was legendary American Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
Zaharias, regarded as one of history’s greatest athletes, was a latecomer to golf who eventually won 55 professional tournaments, including three US Women’s Open titles.
In 1938, however, she caused a stir when she qualified to play in the men’s Los Angeles Open.
She missed the cut that year but survived qualifying again in 1945 and made the 36-hole cut.
However, a second cut was made after 54 holes and a third round 79 meant she wouldn’t play the final round.
While Thompson’s appearance this week in Florida likely won’t generate the same amount of interest as some of her predecessors, it will still be a curiosity.
The team format and informal nature of the tournament should make it less nerve wracking for the 21-year-old and, if she and DeChambeau go on to win or place highly, it will no doubt be a confidence boost for the coming 2017 LPGA season.
THE WEEK IN GOLF TALKS TO RISING AUSTRALIAN STAR CAM SMITH:
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