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Lexi Thompson, 29, to retire from pro golf at the end of the 2024 season. ‘Being out here can be a lot. It can be lonely’

By Jack Bantock, CNN

(CNN) — Lexi Thompson will retire from professional golf at the end of the 2024 season, calling time on a decorated career at the age of 29, the American announced on Tuesday.

The 11-time LPGA Tour champion revealed her decision ahead of her 18th consecutive US Women’s Open appearance this week, 17 years since she burst onto the scene when – at just 12-years-old – she became the then-youngest player to ever qualify for the tournament.

Having turned professional three years later in 2010, the Floridian clinched major glory at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship – now the Chevron Championship – and represented Team USA at six Solheim Cups, as well as two Olympic Games.

“While it is never easy to say goodbye, it is indeed time,” Thompson wrote in a letter, accompanied by a video, on Instagram.

“I’m excited to enjoy the remainder of the year as there are still goals I want to accomplish. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life. Time with family, friends, and my trusted companion [dog], Leo.

“I will always look for ways to contribute to the sport and inspire the next generation of golfers. And of course, I look forward to a little time for myself.”

Thompson peaked as high as world No.4 as she amassed a string of titles, but injuries contributed to a gradual drop in ranking to world No. 54. She has not registered a victory on the LPGA Tour since June 2019, but did win an individual title at the Aramco Team Series – a Ladies European Tour (LET) event – in October 2022.

Finishing eight times inside the top-three at the five flagship events, Thompson repeatedly came agonizingly close to adding to her sole major crown, including an infamous near-miss at the 2017 ANA Inspiration (now Chevron Championship).

A rules violation for mismarking her ball – reported by a TV viewer – saw Thompson hit with a four-shot penalty during the third round. Though she rallied to make a playoff, she was subsequently defeated by South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon.

“You haven’t always been easy on me, or fair for that matter, but through all the ups and downs, you’ve given me a platform to inspire others and positively impact the world,” Thompson said in her letter.

“That has been a driving force that kept me playing and relentlessly working to be better.”

‘A whirlwind of constant attention, scrutiny and pressure’

Thompson spoke through tears during a press conference at Pennsylvania’s Lancaster Country Club, US Women’s Open host, on Tuesday.

Her letter described a “whirlwind of constant attention, scrutiny and pressure” since her breakthrough as a 12-years-old, with social media playing its part in Thompson sometimes finding it “exhausting to maintain a smile on the outside while grappling with struggles on the inside.”

Asked what she was most proud of for overcoming during her career, a tearful Thompson answered: “Just staying true to myself. Being out here can be a lot. It can be lonely.

“I’ll be the last one to say like throw me a pity party. That’s the last thing I want. We’re doing what we love. We’re trying the best every single day. You know, we’re not perfect. We’re humans. Words hurt. It’s hard to overcome sometimes.

“But having the people around you that love you and support you, I feel like that’s been the biggest thing for me. I might not have a huge friend group, but to have the people that matter the most around me have gotten me through some really hard times.”

In October, Thompson became just the seventh woman ever to compete at the PGA Tour event when she teed up at the Shriners Open, narrowly missing out on making the cut after shooting even-par.

Earlier this year, she joined compatriot Rose Zhang as the first women to take part in The Match, squaring off against PGA Tour stars Rory McIlroy and Max Homa.

“To all the girls that have cheered for me, you have been my inspiration, my encouragement and my strength,” Thompson added in her letter.

“On the days that were tough, and I wanted to give up, your support motivated me to dig deep and keep competing.”

‘An inspirational player on and off the course’

Tributes poured in from fellow players following Thompson’s announcement, including from world No. 1 and the US Women’s Open tournament favorite Nelly Korda.

“She’s had such an amazing career,” Korda, chasing a seventh win in eight starts, told reporters Tuesday.

“I think she does an amazing job for the Tour. 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.”

Reigning US Women’s Open champion and fellow American Allisen Corpuz added: “She’s had such a great career. I looked up to her, and I’m not that much younger than her, but I watched her play in multiple U.S. Opens, watched her win a bunch.

“She’s just such an inspirational player both on and off the course. She’s at pretty much every Pro-Am party, always up to do everything. Just to see how she’s impacted the Tour is really special, and I just wish her all the best.”

LPGA greats Michelle Wie West and Annika Sörenstam were among those who commented on Thompson’s Instagram video, with 15-time winner Suzann Pettersen writing: “Thanks for all the battles, laughs and fairways we’ve shared! Life after golf is even better. Enjoy the final stretch!”

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