Thompson breaks through at Chicago Highlands Club
WESTCHESTER, Ill. – Two years ago, Curtis Thompson had given up on professional golf. After just four made cuts in 13 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018, he lost his status and was back at square one. He stopped his pursuit and began caddying for his sister, Lexi, on the LPGA Tour and at home at Pinetree Golf Club.
Fast forward two years, and Thompson earned his redemption moment with the biggest win of his career at the Evans Scholars Invitational. The 27-year-old birdied his final hole to edge Will Zalatoris and Jimmy Stanger by one stroke in an emotional conclusion to a draining week.
“I just never thought I would be back here again and I definitely never thought I would be talking to you guys about a win,” said Thompson. “I can’t thank the people around me enough helping me go through hell and back…I’m extremely happy. It gives me reassurance that I’m good enough to be out here. Now I feel secure in myself.”
Entering the par-5 18th, Thompson knew he needed a birdie for the win. He took driver off the tee, clearing the fairway bunkers, and had 263 yards to the pin for his second shot. Then came a 2-iron pin-high and an opportunity for a 40-foot two-putt to secure the win.
“[Emotionally] I wasn’t great, I’m not going to lie,” said Thompson of his mind swirling before his putt. “I hadn’t putted great from long range all day. I left some putts short from that 30-50 foot range, but obviously I knew that putt was downhill so if I could just get it over the top it should snuggle down by the hole. And I was lucky enough to have a short second putt for the win.”
The win was the breakthrough moment Thompson had been seeking over the past six years as a professional. His brother, Nicholas, is a past Korn Ferry Tour champion, and Lexi is an 11-time LPGA Tour champion. Prior to Sunday, Curtis Thompson had posted eight top-10 finishes in 103 career starts without claiming a title.
If there’s one thing he learned in his time caddying for his sister on the LPGA Tour, it was a renewed conservative approach.
“I learned that the game is a lot easier than you think,” said Thompson, whose sister called him right after his win (and her own solo-fourth finish at the ANA Inspiration). “If you can just somehow minimize the mistakes, the silly ones like I was making on the first two holes today, the game is a lot easier…If you can just put yourself on the green somewhere between 15 and 40 feet on 14 of the 18 holes, you are going to have a good week. It’s just a matter of time for the putter.”
He credited a lot of people in his camp for his work both physically and mentally. In the last two years Thompson has gotten married, went back to finish his degree (he joked he was in the 10-year program) and worked a lot on his swing with coach Martin Hall. The picture-perfect weather on Sunday after a rain-soaked week was an apt finish for Thompson after working his way back through the ranks of pro golf.
Zalatoris, the No. 1 player in the season-long points standings, tied the competitive course record with an 8-under 64 to finish T2. He had a birdie look on the final hole but couldn’t convert. Stanger posted a 6-under 66 on Sunday to get within a stroke and earn his best career finish.