KAWAGOE, Japan – On the 15th hole of the Olympic course at Kasumigaseki Country Club, Lexi Thompson’s caddie Jack Fulghum had to relinquish his duties due to the heat on the first day of women’s golf competition.
In the 93-degree weather, which felt more like 105 on the course, Thompson said she didn’t notice Fulghum wasn’t feeling well until the 15th hole.
“He just asked me, he’s like, ‘Do I look white to you?’,” Thompson said. “And I’m like, I didn’t really notice. He just didn’t look good. I just want him to be healthy, that’s all.”
Thompson instructed Fulghum, who never passed out, to sit in the shade and take care of himself. In that moment, getting him to read a putt was the last thing on her mind.
Luckily for Thompson, LPGA director of player services Donna Wilkins was nearby watching Thompson and Nelly Korda play. She managed to step in and replace Fulghum for the remainder of Thompson’s outing.
“I don’t normally caddie,” Wilkins said. “Straps were a little off, but it was all good. So glad to be able to jump in and help and my first concern was Jack to make sure he was OK and then I was happy to be able to jump on the bag.”
Wilkins supplied Fulghum with electrolyte drinks and salt tablets to replenish his hydration levels. She said she’ll ensure that everyone on the team focuses on hydration to prepare for the upcoming days of the tournament.
Right now, Thompson’s greatest concern is that Fulghum regains his health and strength. Until then, she will work with Wilkins to figure out a caddie contingency plan.
“If he can’t, I’ll just find a local,” Thompson said. “Figure out how to read a yardage book, because I had no idea the last few holes. I’m like, I really hope it’s around that number. But yeah, it ended up working out.”
Thompson finished the first round of the competition 1 over with birdies on four holes, including the 15th through the 17th without Fulghum.
Fulghum’s battle with the heat comes in the wake of another heat-related incident in Olympic women’s golf. According to The Philippine Daily Inquirer, U.S. Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso’s caddie Lionel Matichuk was rushed to the hospital due to heat stroke on Tuesday.
The National Golf Association of the Philippines said that national team coach Miko Alejandro will caddie for Saso in Matichuk’s place.
The weather won’t be any cooler in the second round of the competition, and Thompson understands the importance of maintaining her hydration and energy levels in the sweltering heat.
“Probably concentration just because it is so hot, you have to make sure that you’re drinking as much water as you can,” Thompson said. “Make sure that you’re feeding yourself because once you lose that, you lose all types of concentration. It just happens, so you have to just make sure you’re hydrated. But other than that, any part of the game’s difficult in that heat for sure.”