‘We were all in shock’: Inside Lexi Thompson’s new endorsement deal

Lexi Thompson of the United States walks onto the first green during the final round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at Bradenton Country Club

Lexi Thompson at the LPGA Drive On Championship last week.

getty images

Late last summer, Brett Falkoff, a golf agent with the sports and marketing agency GSE Worldwide, learned by way of colleagues that Dick’s Sporting Goods, which owns and is the exclusive seller of Maxfli golf balls, was looking to increase Maxfli’s exposure by partnering with a PGA Tour player.

The timing wasn’t right for any of the male players on GSE’s roster, but, Falkoff was asked, might 11-time LPGA winner Lexi Thompson, who Falkoff has represented since 2020 and whose ball deal with Bridgestone was set to expire at year’s end, be interested in exploring an agreement with Dick’s?      

“I said, ‘Absolutely not,’” Falkoff told GOLF.com in a phone interview Monday.

Falkoff knew of Maxfli’s rich legacy of Tour pros playing its balls — the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Fred Couples all have endorsed the brand — but in more recent times Maxfli has had little to no presence in the game’s elite ranks. At first blush, Falkoff felt the prospect of Thompson gaming Maxflis was a non-starter.

Still, as he and his client scoped out options for a new ball partner for 2024 and beyond, they agreed to test Maxfli’s Tour Series model as part of the discovery process.

Then they saw the results.

“We were all in shock,” Falkoff said. “The golf ball was better than anything else she tested. It became a nice match, and we were able to work out a nice agreement.” That one-year arrangement will include Thompson playing the ball for the 2024 season and also wearing a Maxlfi logo on the right side of her visor; she also will provide feedback to Maxfli as it develops its 2025 models.

Falkoff knows how it might look: an established and highly marketable star signing with a relatively low-profile brand. “People look at a deal like this and say, ‘Oh, it must have been a money grab.’ [But] if you really looked into it, this late in her career, why would she do something that is just a money grab? At the end of the day, she’s just looking to play something that performs the best for her.”

Lexi Thompson walks to the tee at the Grant Thornton Invitational.
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He added: “I made it clear to Lexi that you’re not going to sign with a golf-ball company only because you’re getting paid a good amount of money. At this point in your career, you’re going to play whatever’s best for you.”

While Thompson saw excellent results during testing — she said she has picked up ball speed without losing any feel or control — Falkoff acknowledged that the switch wasn’t driven only by launch-monitor data. Though Thompson began to find her form toward the end of 2023, last year was largely a struggle for her. In her 11 starts before the Solheim Cup, Thompson made just three cuts and broke 70 only four times.

Change was needed, and it came, in the form of some mid-season swing tweaks and a caddie switch. In January of this year, Thompson announced that she had hired a new full-time caddie, Colton Heisey, with whom Thompson had begun working toward the end of 2023.

Then came a new ball.  

“Whenever you’re struggling, you’ve got to realize that you need to change some things up,” said Falkoff, whose other clients include Bryson DeChambeau and Sam Burns. “She’s been with Bridgestone for five years. She always loved their golf ball, but sometimes when you’re struggling, you need to make a change, and she’s looking at all areas of the game, and the golf ball was one of them knowing this was going to be a contract year.”

The terms of the partnership were not disclosed, but it’s safe to say that Thompson, who also endorses, among other brands, Cobra Puma, Rolex, UKG and Club Champion, will be paid handsomely for becoming the first LPGA player to endorse and exclusively play a Maxfli ball. (The only other Maxfli-sponsored player on a major tour is nine-time PGA Tour Champions winner Fred Funk.)

“Lexi makes an ideal partner as an established presence in golf,” Aimee Watters, VP vertical brand marketing for Dick’s Sporting Goods, told GOLF.com by email. “She provides instant name recognition and further legitimacy to the Maxfli brand.”

When asked whether Dick’s is actively seeking other Tour pros to beef up its staff roster, Watters said, “Right now, we are laser focused on our deal with Lexi and look forward to supporting her on tour this year.”

In Thompson’s first start of 2024 — the LPGA Drive On Championship, in Bradenton, Fla., last week — she tied for 16th. Following a second-round 67, she was asked about the latest addition to her arsenal.

“I’ve been testing the ball for the last month or two, especially in the wind,” Thompson said. “In the wind is the most important [for] ball testing, and I’ve seen nothing but a little bit lower spin, which is great in the wind, and it does even better in the crosswind. That’s super-important for me, and I’m looking forward to playing it.”

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.