PGA Tour pro Peter Malnati referred to Lexi Thompson receiving a sponsor invite into next week's Shriners Children's Open in Las Vegas as a "gimmick" before quickly retracting his comment.
Thompson, 28, will become only the seventh woman to play on the PGA Tour, and she will be competing for a prize pot of $8.4m when she tees up at TPC Summerlin from Oct. 12.
While Malnati, 36, has no problem Thompson competing with the men on the PGA Tour, and even thinks she will be able to put up a good fight given the distance she hits the golf ball, he is unsure whether a tournament sponsor really needs to go to such lengths as inviting an LPGA Tour star to "drum up interest and get storylines."
Malnati said of Thompson's invite:
"I just got a text this morning, so I don't know much about it. I don't even know -- obviously I know that Lexi at times has been one of the top players on the LPGA Tour, and she's obviously very athletic. Distance won't be a problem. She'll hit it far enough.
"My gut reaction when I saw that was like the tournament reaching to try to get -- just trying to drum up interest.
"I think I understand that, if that is the case. I don't think we're going to need to resort to gimmicks to drum up interest. I shouldn't have said that. I don't know that having Lexi play is a gimmick, but I don't think the tournaments are going to have to go to those kind of lengths to drum up interest and get storylines that they can sell because I think these events are actually going to have a lot of meaning.
"Like I said, change is hard for everyone at every level, so I assume if you're a host organization of a tournament, if you're the Century Club here in Jackson, if you're Wayne Sanderson Farms, you just don't know right now for sure what you have anymore because the fall is completely reimagined.
"I'm pretty sure that the fall is going to be a blockbuster hit. I think it's going to be very successful. But these tournaments, they don't know yet.
"Having Lexi play certainly will get a lot of headlines, and if that's the goal for Shriners and the host organization in Vegas there, that's great. Obviously she's a professional athlete. She's accomplished a lot. It's not like -- I mean, who knows what'll happen. She may go play really well and it'll be huge. She may play absolutely terrible and finish 132nd.
"Either way, she's a professional golfer. She has a spot in the field. The tournament is -- if it gets them the attention that they want and it works out positively for them, it's great, all for it."
Off the back of a thrilling draw in the Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin in Spain, which saw Europe retain the cup for a third successive time, 11-time LPGA Tour winner Thompson is extremely excited to make her PGA Tour debut and send a positive message to female golfers around the world.
Thompson said this week:
"I’m hopeful that my ability to play with the men next week at the Shriners Children’s Open sends a great message to the young women that you can chase your dream regardless of how hard it is. I’m grateful to Shriners Children’s for this opportunity to spend the week alongside these inspirational kids."
Thompson is the first woman to play on the PGA Tour since Brittany Lincicome played at the Barbasol Championship in 2018.
She joins esteemed company to make the switch to play on the men's circuit, following in the footsteps of Michelle Wie, Annika Sorenestam, Suzy Whaley, Shirley Spork and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
Of the six golfers who have made starts on the PGA Tour, only Zaharias managed to make the cut when she played in the Los Angeles Open in 1945.
Zaharias notably also made the cut two more times, finishing 33rd at the Phoenix Open and 42nd at the Tucson Open, both in 1945.
Having begun her career as a professional at the staggeringly young age of 15, Thompson was also the youngest ever player to qualify for a major when she played in the Women's US Open at only 12 years of age.
Since then, Thompson has won one major title coming at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship
Currently ranked No 114 in the Race to the CME Globe, Thompson hasn't won on the LPGA Tour since 2019 when she was victorious at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
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