Pro golfer Lexi Thompson retires at 29, citing mental health struggles

Pro golfer Lexi Thompson retires at 29, citing mental health struggles
Lexi Thompson of the United States looks on during a practice round prior to the U.S. Women’s Open Presented by Ally at Lancaster Country Club on May 29, 2024 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — A 29-year-old player on the women’s professional golf tour has announced her retirement, citing the pressures that come with playing a professional sport in the public eye.

Lexi Thompson, a 12-year veteran of the LPGA, confirmed she will retire from professional golf at the end of this season in an open letter she shared on Instagram on May 28.

“Although this has been an amazing journey, it hasn’t always been an easy one,” Thompson said in the letter, which was shared on Instagram along with a video montage of highlights from her career. “Since I was 12 years old, my life as a golfer has been a whirlwind of constant attention, scrutiny and pressure. The cameras are always on, capturing every swing and every moment on and off the golf course.”

“Social media never sleeps, with comments and criticisms flooding in from around the world,” she added. “It can be exhausting to maintain a smile on the outside while grappling with struggles on the inside.”

Thompson made history when she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at the age of 12 in 2007, becoming the youngest person to ever do so, according to her LPGA biography.

Over the course of her career, Thompson became an 11-time LPGA Tour winner, a major champion, a two-time Olympian and earned over $14 million.

Thompson said in her retirement video that amid her career highs, she has found comfort in speaking publicly about her mental health “battles.”

“By opening up about my own battles, I’ve been able to connect with others who feel isolated in their struggles, offering them a sense of community and understanding,” she said. “Each time I share, it reinforces the message that it’s OK to not be OK, and that seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness.”

Thompson also spoke about the role mental health played in her decision to retire from professional golf in a press conference Tuesday at the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open, the same tournament where her career started.

“I think we all have our own [mental health] struggles, especially out here,” she said. “Unfortunately in golf, you lose more than you win, so it’s an ongoing battle to continue to put yourself out there in front of the cameras and continuing to work hard and maybe not seeing the results you want and getting criticized for it. So it’s hard. I will say, yes, I’ve struggled with it. I don’t think there’s somebody out here that hasn’t. It’s just a matter of how well you hide it, which is very sad.”

She continued, “It’s an important thing to address and be okay with getting help and getting the support and surrounding yourself with the people that support you and love you because there are always people who do care so much about you and will help you get through those tough moments.”

Thompson’s comments on mental health come just days after the parents of professional golfer Grayson Murray confirmed the two-time PGA Tour winner died by suicide.

“Life wasn’t always easy for Grayson, and although he took his own life, we know he rests peacefully now,” Eric and Terry Murray said in a statement about their son.

Other professional athletes have also spoken publicly about the pressures of competing in the public eye, including gymnast Simone Biles and Los Angeles Rams backup quarterback Stetson Bennett, who recently confirmed his time away from the team last season was related to mental health.

Thompson said that in her experience, being a professional athlete can be “lonely.”

“Being out here, it can be a lot. It can be lonely. Sorry if I get emotional,” she said Tuesday, fighting back tears. “A lot of people, they don’t realize a lot of what we go through as a professional athlete … We’re doing what we love. We’re trying our best every single day and we’re not perfect. We’re humans. Words hurt, and it’s hard to overcome sometimes.”

She credited a core group of people around her with helping her “get through some really hard times.”

“I think it’s a lot for everybody out here, or in any professional sport,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what we go through and the amount of training and hard work that we put ourselves through. It’s a lot and I think we deserve a lot more credit than what we get.”

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal, substance use or other mental health crises, please call or text 988. You will reach a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also go to 988lifeline.org.

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