The golfing giant battling all the odds at Q School
Much of the main talk going into Qualifying School is all about who has just missed out on the Race to Dubai and which former European Tour winners are back to square one.
For others Q School began at the First Stage at the start of October. Jonathan Thomson was one of those, squeezing through on the number after a couple of late birdies. Sam Horsfield, who leads Q School after four rounds, was another to emerge successfully from Frilford Heath.
From there, having just missed out on promotion from the EuroPro Tour, Thomson then came through in a play-off at the Second Stage at El Saler and he arrived at Lumine with the main goal to make the cut.
By playing all six rounds it meant he would be guaranteed a card on the Challenge Tour in 2018, something that had narrowly eluded him on the EuroPro. So, while the bulk of the field had their sights set on the European Tour, Thomson’s objectives were a little lower.
And four days in he’s done it, better still the 21-year-old known affectionately as ‘Jigger’ is in a share for 3rd.
The very obvious thing about Thomson is that he is massive, there is 6-foot-9-and-a-half of him. So, in among a wave of almost identikit golfers in Spain this week, he is pretty easy to pick out.
He’s already the tallest player to play on the European Tour, edging out Gordon Sherry, having got an invite to play in this year’s Czech Masters. After three days he was in the penultimate group before understandably tailing off on the Sunday.
A few weeks later he played in the Portugal Masters and tied for 25th, along with Padraig Harrington no less, so it’s fair to say he can play a bit. Thomson only turned pro last September.
I know some of this because I got chatting to his dad, Nigel, who is the catering manager at Thomson’s home club Rotherham, the same course that Danny Willett grew up at. Nigel’s a similar bear of a man and is both modest and unassuming about his son’s achievements.
“I’ve watched Jigger from juniors, England boys and men, and I used to get very stressed watching but now it’s more what will be, will be. He’s got a good attitude, it’s altered a lot the last 12 months and he’s really settled down,” explained Thomson senior.
“We watched him at Frilford Heath and we’ve done some miles. My holidays are spent watching him. This is the serious end, all these lads can really play. To be here is a big adventure.”
Thomson hits it, as you might expect, the proverbial country mile. He is coached by Nick Huby, who is part of the Pete Cowen Academy, and Cowen, who knows a thing or two, quite fancied him to have a good week at Q School.
“Pete said to him that he’s in a really good place as it’s new to him, others will be dreading it and, emotionally, they won’t be at their best.”
And then, as we were preparing to go our separate ways, he added something that I hadn’t expected at all.
“You should know that he had a serious illness for five years as a youngster from seven to 12. He had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, and he had a bad strain of it, so him being here is what we used to dream about when he were laid there in hospital. We used to talk about days like this so it’s quite emotional really.”
It was as uplifting as it was upsetting, the look and emotion in a dad’s eyes when talking about what his son had to go through at such an early age.
There were five years of intense chemotherapy before he achieved remission and, from that point, he dedicated himself to golf and now he’s making some very quick strides in the game. He still has to have blood tests once a year but that’s it.
So, whatever happens the rest of this week, it’s been a job bloody well done and you won’t find a prouder dad.