Another wave of teenagers at the Women's Open

To quote one of those teens, "Oh, yeah?"

Two years later, Webb teed it up with two 13-year-olds at the U.S. Women's Open - Wie and Sydney Burlison. Pressel returned that year as a grizzled veteran at age 15. Paula Creamer made her major championship debut at age 16.

Since then, the numbers have been rising.

There were five teenagers in the field at Pine Needles in 2001, then 14 at Pumpkin Ridge in 2003 and 25 teens last year at Newport.

"I think definitely in this country, there's a premium on picking one sport so that you get a free education," Webb said.

That would mean a college scholarship, but why bother with college?

Creamer won her first LPGA Tour event a week before her she went through high school commencement. Pressel turned down a scholarship to Duke because she wanted to be a pro and saw no point in waiting.

For Thompson, golf runs in the family.

She was 5 when she first started to play in Coral Gables, Fla., inspired by her brothers. One of them, Nicholas, is on the Nationwide Tour and played in the Walker Cup. Another brother, 17-year-old Curtis, qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur.

She is home-schooled and will be in the seventh grade next year. Her favorite TV shows are "Hannah Montana" and anything on the Disney Channel. In her spare time at Pine Needles, she goes to the pet store to cuddle the cats.

Does she belong at the toughest test in women's golf?

Absolutely.

Pressel only had to go through an 18-hole qualifier to get in six years ago. The USGA brought equity to women's golf a short time later, so Thompson not only had to make it through an 18-hole local qualifier, but 36 holes of sectional qualifying.

Asked about her expectations this week, Thompson said she would try to post something around 74 or 75, which might be asking a lot on a course where she has to hit fairway metals into the green on at least six of the holes.

"Hopefully, I make the cut," she said. "If I don't, it's all right."

The only downside for Thompson or any other teenager at the U.S. Women's Open is to take themselves too seriously. She earned her spot in the field through 54 holes of qualifying, and no one expects much more.

"Just go out and have fun," Pressel said. "It's a great experience. It was a great experience for me. I'm sure if we come back here in another six years or so, she'll hopefully have the same experience, to look back and say, 'Wow!' She might not realize it until then, or another five years down the road to just say, 'Wow, I actually played in this championship when I was 12.' It's pretty cool."

By then, 12 might be considered old.

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