Thursday, April 17, 2014
Benji Thompson made waves with his jump into Poppy’s Pond at the 42nd Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Thompson, a North Augusta native and the caddie for Lexi Thompson, who won the tournament, cut a flip into the pond, which is a tradition for the winners of the championship. His flip was a part of ESPN SportsCenter’s top 10 plays and was featured in an article on Yahoo! Sports.
He said the flip was the result of a bet with a fellow caddie.
“It was funny – my buddy Kyle Bradley caddies for Jessica Korda, and we’d been talking about it all week on the golf course,” Thompson said. “We went out there and looked at it on 18 and we both said, ‘If we win this tournament, you have to flip into the pond.’ After the round, he was one of the guys out there spraying beer everywhere. We signed our scorecards and the tournament committee got us all together to go jump in and he was standing right there pointing at me and said, ‘You’d better flip.’”
While his flip looked impressive on video, Thompson was hoping to do a little bit more for his first trip into Poppy’s Pond.
“We were actually in the airport coming home, and I saw a quick clip on SportsCenter, and it was pretty neat to see it on ESPN,” he said. “It was probably only about a seven, I couldn’t go end-over-end because there was concrete on the edge of the grass. I wanted to make sure I made it over, so I did a little barrel-roll flip in there.”
Benji and golfer Lexi, who are not related, used an aggressive strategy to attack the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Lexi shot 14-under for the tournament and defeated Michelle Wie by three strokes.
“We had a great final round,” Benji said of Lexi Thompson. “She was calm and was enjoying the round,” he said. “We were out there cutting up and having a good time. She played really well, so she made it easy. It was an exciting day, to say the least. It’s pretty neat to watch – to be around somebody who is as talented and pretty much a rock star like she is at that age. It shows how much hard work she put in from a young age. She has unbelievable talent – it’s crazy to be able to witness how good she is.”
Along with toting Lexi’s bag, Thompson is responsible for assisting her in setting up shots and finding places to safely hit on the course. During the week leading up to a tournament, Thompson takes notes on the course and helps come up with a plan of action for the tournament.
“I walk the golf course, I try to do 9-holes every time I walk,” he said. “I’ll walk and check the greens and find the places on the golf course where you want to hit it to, or where you don’t want to miss it.
“I usually try to get around the whole course at least once without carrying a golf bag to take note of everything. Whenever there’s a spot that I know we want to avoid, I’ve got notes in my book where we really want to go to. I try to get her good lines off the tee and good lines to the green.”
Thompson, who used to be a caddie at Augusta National Golf Club, has a history in the game, which helps him with Lexi.
“I think that’s one of the things. I’ve been playing golf forever – I started when I was around 10 – and I think playing as a player has definitely helped as a caddie,” he said. “You have to know golf to be able to do what these guys on the tour are doing, because everybody is a good player, I’d say. So knowing the game definitely helps.”
With the win at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first for 19-year-old Lexi, both were able to take some time off. Benji was able to come home to North Augusta for Masters week.
“It’s awesome; Masters week is always fun,” he said. “I get to go out there, see some good golf and see some of my buddies I used to caddie with and some of the old players I used to be around. I get to go out on the golf course and enjoy the experience out there, which is great.”
After taking some time off, the pair will take on Texas at the North Texas LPGA Shootout presented by JTBC.
“Our next event is Dallas in two weeks,” Benji said. “She’s taking off the week coming up for a promotional shoot. I’ve got a flight out the Sunday before the week of the tournament, the 27th, to get ready for the tournament.”
North Texas LPGA Shootout presented by JTBC will take place from May 1 through 4 at the Las Colinas Country Club.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The North Augusta Star.