June 10, 2005
ATLANTA – While most attention this time of year in collegiate sports concentrates on the career choices of basketball and baseball players, Georgia Tech golfer Nicholas Thompson is putting his plans for a professional career on hold.
Thompson, an All-American from Coral Springs Fla., who just completed a standout career for the Yellow Jackets, has put his priority on making the United States team for the Walker Cup, as well as competing again in the U.S. Amateur, where he reached the round of 16 last August.
“That’s what’s going to keep me amateur for the summer. My goal is to play on that Walker Cup team,” said Thompson last week following the second round of the NCAA Championship. “I’m going to play in amateur tournaments throughout the whole summer in preparation for that Walker team. Then I’m going to turn pro after the U.S. Amateur. So my summer of staying amateur is for the Walker Cup. I want to earn my way onto the team and play for my country, and hopefully beat them.”
The Walker Cup is the amateur cousin of the Ryder Cup, a biennial series of matches between amateur players from the United States against amateurs from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will be played Aug. 13-14 at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill. Several former Yellow Jackets have played in the Walker Cup, including Bobby Jones (1922, 1924, 1926, 1928, 1930), Watts Gunn (1926, 1928), Charlie Yates (1936, 1938), David Duval (1991), Matt Kuchar (1999) and Bryce Molder (1999, 2001).
“It’s an extremely special honor,” said Thompson, who made the All-Atlantic Coast Conference team three times and was at least an honorable mention All-American in each of his four years at Tech. “It’s only 10 guys every other year who are picked. That shows that your one of the elite amateurs, and that’s important to anybody that plays golf, to play for that team or any competition of that nature.”
Thompson has plenty of accomplishments on his resume to make his case for selection to that team. He won the Jones Cup Invitational this past February, a biennial competition that brings together many of the amateur players who are under consideration for the United States team. He won the event by two shots over Brian Harman of Sea Island, Ga., posting a two-under-par score of 214 that included a final round 66.
Last summer, Thompson won two matches in the U.S. Amateur, defeating Tech teammate Roberto Castro and Bronson LaCassie of Australia before falling to Jeff Overton of Evansville, Ind., in the round of 16. He also captured the Western Refining Collegiate All-America Classic last November, which brought together 24 players who made the Golf Coaches Association All-America teams from 2004.
He is ranked sixth in the nation among amateur players according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, and just completed a Tech career in which he posted the fifth-lowest stroke average (72.05) in the program’s history.
Announcements regarding the invitations to be a part of the team won’t come until later this month, but Thompson is willing to wait and play for free in the meantime.
“I’ve talked to a lot of guys about going pro or staying amateur,” Thompson went on to say. “It’s a tough one because there is not a set criteria that says, if I do this, I’m going to make that team. It’s still chosen. I debated back and forth, do I wait for a team that’s picked and possibly not make it? Or do I go pro? I think staying amateur is going to be a good choice.”
The U.S. Amateur will be played Aug. 22-28 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Thompson also has plans to play in many of the summers premier amateur events, including the Sunnehanna Amateur, the Northeast Amateur and the Porter Cup.
“Initially, he didn’t know whether it would be in his best interest financially, in terms of what it would cost him and his family to pursue this,” said Bruce Heppler, his coach at Tech. “It’s nice to know that he recognizes this as a great honor. It’s a little different from most guys. It’s nice to see that he values playing for his country. He can always be a professional, but he can only be on the Walker Cup team once. He’s always represented us in a very positive light, and he will be no different representing his country in that tournament.”