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12 year old qualifies for US Womens Open

At 12 years and not quite five months old, American Alexis Thompson on Thursday will become the youngest qualifier ever to compete at the women's U.S. Open.

Thompson will join the likes of Annika Sorenstam and world number one Lorena Ochoa at the 2007 Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Country Club, which offers a total purse of $3.1 million.

The schoolgirl shot rounds of 72 and 71 in a sectional tournament in Heathrow, Florida, to qualify for the major.

"I'm just out here playing golf," she told reporters on Monday. "It's great that I made it and I'm having an awesome experience already so I'm just out here to play golf."

Thompson won the right to play the Open at the age of 12 years, four months and one day, beating the previous record set by the now 19-year-old Morgan Pressel by more than six months. Pressel has held the record since 2001.

"I wasn't really worrying about the record I was making,' she said. "I just played my game and if I made it, I made it and if I didn't, it was OK."

Thompson, who will compete as an amateur, is being accompanied by her parents. Her father Scott is coaching and carrying the bag, while her mother Judy offers support from the sidelines.

"I'm very proud of her.' her mother said. "She's accomplished a lot this year and seems like every time she accomplishes on another level it just amazes us and we're just like 'wow'. It's amazing."

And so is the pre-teen's game. Tall for her age at 5-foot-6, she hits the ball as far and as straight off the tee as most of the professionals in the field and has a short game to match.

She is also enjoying the attention her new-found celebrity has brought. When she's not on the driving range or putting green, she's signing autographs.

"I was expecting attention, I know that, but I'm handling it just being out here, just being normal, playing golf."

Thompson says she would like eventually to turn professional. She practices after school every day and, during summer vacation, seven hours a day at the local golf course at her home in Florida.

More immediately, she would like to play well at the Open, where 156 players will tee off in Thursday's first round.

"If I make the cut it's going to be really awesome and if I don't it's all right." she said.



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