It was never about the golf for Lexi Thompson.

Well, it is a little bit. Of course, she wants to make the cut at this week’s Shriners Children’s Open, where she will become just the seventh woman ever to compete on the PGA Tour. And, of course, she wants to continue the good form she’s found in recent weeks at the Solheim Cup and at the LPGA Tour’s regular stops in Arkansas and Texas.

But Thompson is more concerned about sending a message this week in Las Vegas, Nev., especially to the kids on-site and those watching from Shriners Children’s Hospital, one of inspiration and positivity, one that encourages those younger than she is to chase after their dreams no matter the obstacles in front of them.

“Good golf is a successful week. If I can leave here inspiring others, and especially the kids, the Shriners kids, that’s what it’s all about and what this tournament is,” said Thompson of her goals this week. “There is more than just playing golf. If I can inspire one individual, I would feel like I’m making progress. Of course, I want to play good. That’s a whole other story.

“There is more to life than performing well. That’s what I want to do, inspire others, and we’ll see where the golf takes me. I know I’ve played well the last few weeks, and just take one shot at a time. Whatever happens, it’s a blessing to be here.”

Thompson is no stranger to a challenge. She was thrust into the limelight at the ripe old age of 12 when she played in her first U.S. Women’s Open in 2007. She turned professional in 2010 at just 15 years old and won her first LPGA Tour event in 2011 as a non-member, taking home the Navistar LPGA Classic by a whopping five shots over Tiffany Joh. That victory led a then 16-year-old Thompson to petition the LPGA Tour for Membership, one that was ultimately approved, granting the teenager LPGA Tour status for the 2012 season.

Since then, Thompson has captured 10 additional victories, including a major title at the 2014 Chevron Championship, recording 85 total career top-10 finishes since joining the organization. She has played on six U.S. Solheim Cup teams and four Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown teams, also representing her country in two Olympic Games, tying for 19th at the 2016 Rio Olympics and finishing 33rd in Tokyo in 2020.

The 28-year-old has dealt with more heartbreak, injury and criticism than most players in her 14 years as a professional golfer but has always risen above it all, taking every setback on the chin and charging forward, confident that her latest success is right around the next corner. And she knows that it’s her duty now to use her platform to show others that they can chase their dreams as well, no matter what they might look like, no matter if they are on or off a golf course.

“I think it’s just since I’ve been under the microscope since I was 12 years old, just being used to it,” said Thompson of the origin of her resiliency. “Just believing in yourself and not listening to outside expectations or any people that judge you. You know what you’re capable of, and all you have to do is believe in the work that you put in and go out there and trust the process. That’s all I’ve done throughout my whole career. Turning pro at a young age was a big step, doing this. Really just have to go out and do what you love.”

So, with all eyes on her this week at TPC Summerlin, rest assured that Thompson is more than ready for the task ahead. She’s done a lot in her LPGA Tour career and will add this latest feat to an already impressive resume, one that has earned her a place as one of the most recognizable players in the women’s game.

“I don’t really see it as a challenge,” Thompson said. “Coming into a PGA Tour event, being a woman, is a challenge. I just got to play within myself. I know my game. Don’t try to push anything. Play within myself, and that’s all I can do. Try my best on every single shot, 100% committed. Whatever happens, I can only control my emotions and my game.

“Playing golf and being a top woman golfer, I just want to inspire people in general. To show that anything is possible and that I’m following my dreams. I’ve done it since I was five years old, (in the) spotlight since I was 12. You just have to block out everything and believe in yourself and go after what you want.”

So no matter how the scores are tallied up, come Sunday afternoon in Vegas, whether or not she’s there to see it, Thompson will certainly have achieved her aim, doing more than just sending a message to her young fans around the world.

She’ll have done what she’s continued to do in her nearly two decades of competitive golf, years that have seen triumph, failure and everything in between, a career that has left an indelible mark on the women’s game.

Thompson will have inspired us all.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga