Chris and Jessica Thompson have each carved a niche in the golf industry. He has done it on the golf course; she has done it at GCSAA. Photo by Howard Richman
A fight broke out Monday in GCSAA employee Jessica Thompson’s Volvo SUV.
Her children, Henry and Landry, each wanted to handle a prized possession that had been years in the making. It belonged to their father and Jessica’s husband, Chris. Nineteen years after turning pro, Chris Thompson had earned his first PGA Tour membership card.
For safekeeping, Jessica had brought the card home with her following Chris’ successful performance this past weekend in Portland, Ore. When she picked up their children after school, Jessica let them see the card. That’s when it got interesting. “The kids were fighting over it in the backseat,” Jessica says. “I think Landry wanted to keep it.”
It’s Chris’ want-to that made that backseat moment possible.
For years, he has been the ultimate grinder. Twice an All-American at the University of Kansas, Chris turned pro in 1999 and says he’s elated to have reached the ultimate destination in his sport. (At 42, he isn’t the oldest player to earn his first PGA Tour card. Allen Doyle was 47 when he received his in 1996, as was Jim Rutledge when he earned it in 2007, according to a PGA Tour media official.)
“You try to do something for so many years, then all of a sudden it happens — you’re not exactly sure how to react,” says Chris, whose 2018-19 PGA Tour rookie season is scheduled to begin Oct. 4 in the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif. “A lot of guys in this profession don’t get that opportunity.”
Jessica, who is the senior manager of tournament and conference events at GCSAA, is already busy scheduling — and rescheduling. “We had planned to take the family to Phoenix when the (Web.com Tour) season was over,” she says. “This is exciting. He’s worked very hard for this a very long time. His confidence is high right now, so it’s a good time.”
Chris birdied his final hole Sunday in the Web.com Tour’s WinCo Foods Portland Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club’s Witch Hollow Course. He finished 7 under par, tied for 24th and, more importantly, landed in the 20th spot on the Web.com Tour money list (at more than $181,000) to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour. The top 25 earned membership cards.
Right: Chris Thompson displays the PGA Tour membership card he earned Aug. 19. This is his first promotion from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour. Photo by Jessica Thompson
What catapulted him to greater heights this year? He changed putters and changed caddies, hiring Chevy Hartzog, who Chris says has made a major difference. “He is a good reader of the greens, and he is a good player too, and he understands the nuances of the game all caddies don’t understand because they don’t play a lot,” Chris says.
Chris now has the opportunity to play against contenders such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and his good friend and fellow KU Jayhawk Gary Woodland. Chris is only concerned with himself, though. “You’ve got to play the course. You really don’t play against other people,” he says. “Good golf is good golf. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Kansas Open or a PGA Tour event.”
He hasn’t won since the 2014 Nebraska Open, but Chris has competed in a U.S. Open (in 2014; he missed the cut at Pinehurst No. 2) and did make the cut that year in the AT&T Byron Nelson. He hasn’t played in the Masters, but it’s among his goals. “You have to win first to get there. If you play well, hit every shot with confidence, I think good things will happen,” he says.
The Thompsons have had the chance to attend the Masters, but declined in the hope of something better. It has everything to do with that precious little card. “Somebody asked us once if we wanted tickets (to the Masters),” Jessica says, “but Chris said if he’s going there, it’s not going to be outside the ropes.”
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.