The Thompson Georgia golf family album has one more page to fill

Georgia's Davis Thompson exits a bunker during play in this year's SEC Golf Championships.
Georgia's Davis Thompson exits a bunker during play in this year's SEC Golf Championships.

Credit: Perry McIntyre

Davis Thompson, the latest thing in the designer line of Georgia golfers, has but a precious few final rounds to play before striking out on the daunting quest of making this game pay.

If ever there’s a time for pausing and pondering the special generational bond he has formed with the Bulldogs program, it’s now.

His old man, Todd Thompson, was a walk-on who went on to captain the Georgia golf team in the late 1980s. As his son was finishing high school and weighing offers from Alabama, Auburn and Georgia, Todd bit down hard and resisted interfering. He wanted his boy to map his own course.

But then, “I remember when he told me he was going to Georgia,” Todd said. “I was very excited.

“I wanted him to go somewhere where he’d be able to develop relationships and get better. And he’s done both of those things at UGA.”

Added was one more strong and common thread to their shared DNA. “It has meant a lot,” Davis mused. “We got to share stories about his time there and my time here at Georgia. It has been great to have that kind of camaraderie, one that kind of deepens the father-son relationship. I’m very thankful for my four years here.”

He gets to hear all about how much better the facilities are now and how lucky he is to be a Bulldogs player in this era. “Almost daily,” Davis laughed, “whether it’s him or his former teammates.”

And the two can crack on each other while comparing college careers.

“We have gone back and forth about individual stuff, but it’s all fun,” Davis said.

“He can always say he has a SEC championship (1988), which I don’t, which is unfortunate. Maybe I can change it, and we’ll have a national championship and he won’t. Maybe I can have that on him.”

The last chance for that starts Friday at the NCAA tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Bulldogs are the 12th seed in the 30-team field, and Thompson is among the favorites for the individual title. There are four rounds of stroke play (the field reduced to 15 teams and top scoring individuals after three). Stroke play decides the individual champ. Top eight teams then move on to match play for the overall title.

While the Bulldogs have a strong core of talented players, Thompson is undoubtedly the lead dog on this sled. He made that clear during the regionals, when he went a career-best 14 under to win the individual title in Tallahassee. The Bulldogs rode him hard, for as a team, Georgia was 17 under.

Just look at Thompson now, not the hottest recruit coming out of junior golf when he was an Alabama high schooler. He currently is the world’s No. 2-ranked amateur – the highest ranked American. The SEC Player of the Year. Four-time tournament winner at Georgia. Two-time regional champion, the only Bulldog to do that other than Russell Henley. Member of a winning Walker Cup squad. In line for all the top awards in the college game: the Haskins, the Hogan, the Nelson, the Nicklaus.

His father has a clear view of what success looks like in golf. A long-time junior golf executive, Todd has been the tournament director for the RSM Classic, the annual PGA Tour stop at St. Simon’s, since 2017. It’s no great secret how his son got here.

Asked what he likes best about his kid’s game – one that admittedly has outstripped his own (Davis has been beating him for years) – Todd answered, “His demeanor. His preparation.”

“Some people see players do well and think it just happens. It happens over time, and it happens with a lot of work,” he said.

Added Georgia golf coach Chris Haack: “(Davis) is an extremely hard worker. It’s his grit and determination. He just kind of outworks everyone else. He’s practicing morning, noon and night and focuses totally on golf. He’s one of those guys who’s got his goals and works hard at them.”

And putting up low numbers doesn’t hurt either. “A lot of guys get scared when they get it 3 or 4 under and it’s hard to get it in,” Haack said. “We learned early on that he has the mentality that if he gets it to 3 or 4 under, he wants to get it to 5 or 6. If he gets to 5 or 6, he wants to get it to 7.”

The Thompson family now will get to bond around Georgia golf for a few more laps around the desert. What a fond hike it will be. All the more fond if Davis feeds off the momentum created by his regional play.

“He plays better than I do, so it’s probably more exciting to watch. But I loved playing, too,” Todd Thompson said.

Because of his high standing in the PGA Tour University rankings, Thompson will be able to jump right into the Tour’s Triple-A Korn Ferry circuit at the close of the national championship tournament. He said he hasn’t committed his pro plans to stone just yet.

Right now, he’s caught in that sentimental divide between glancing back and looking ahead.

“I came in and worked as hard as I could, tried to do my best and got better each year, which is the main goal,” Thompson said. “I’m just thankful I’m in this position. Hopefully I can go out with a bang.”

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