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Pro golfer Lexi Thompson, 29, announces surprise retirement: 'We all have our own struggles'

Women’s professional golfer Lexi Thompson, who is one of the biggest stars in the sport, has announced she is retiring, citing mental health concerns.

Thompson, 29, made the announcement May 28 in an open letter she shared in an Instagram post over images capturing moments from her career.

“Although this has been an amazing journey, it hasn’t always been an easy one. 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,” she said.

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

“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. 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 said she is at peace with her decision, in which she revealed she will leave the sport full time at the end of the year.

“While it is never easy to say goodbye, it is indeed time,” she wrote.

“I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life,” she continued. “Time with my 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 also spoke about her decision to retire while at a May 28 press conference at the U.S. Women’s Open in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“Being out here, it can be a lot. It can be lonely. Sorry if I get emotional,” she said while fighting back tears.

Lexi Thompson (Matt Rourke / AP)
Lexi Thompson (Matt Rourke / AP)

“They don’t realize a lot of what we go through as a professional athlete,” she continued, while adding that “words hurt.”

Thompson also opened up about just how much mental health played a role in her decision.

“I think we all have our own 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.”

Thompson has been one of the sport’s shining stars for years, and she became the youngest golfer, at the time, to qualify for the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open at the age of 12. She has 11 victories and 88 top 10 finishes on the LPGA Tour in her career. She also competed for the United States in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the Tokyo Games held in 2021. Thompson also competed six times in the Solheim Cup, the tournament pitting professional women golfers from America against their counterparts from Europe.

Capital One's The Match IX (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images for The Match)
Capital One's The Match IX (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images for The Match)

Thompson’s announcement comes after PGA Tour golfer Grayson Murray, who had dealt with mental health issues, died by suicide last week. Los Angeles Rams backup quarterback Stetson Bennett also revealed this week that he stepped away from the sport last season to work on his mental health.

Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles also cited mental health concerns when she pulled out of multiple events at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021. And, in 2022, Ohio State University offensive lineman Harry Miller announced he was retiring from the sport due to mental health struggles that led him to contemplate taking his own life.

“I would just say hope is just pretending to believe in something until one day you don’t have to pretend any more,” he said on TODAY to anyone struggling with their mental health. “And right now we have all the logic, all the rationale in the world to give up on it. And I just ask, pretend for a little bit, and then one day you won’t have to pretend any more and you’ll be happy.”

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com