CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A flood of emotions and memories came crashing to mind as Mike Thomas watched his son Justin hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on the 18th green after winning his first PGA Championship on Sunday.
“I just started thinking of my dad — three generations of PGA members,” Mike Thomas said. “I mean, that’s pretty neat.”
Mike Thomas is a PGA Tour professional at Harmony Landing in Louisville, Kentucky and a former member of the PGA’s board of directors. His father, Paul Thomas, was a 60-year member of the PGA of America.
“I just wish my grandfather was here to see this,” Justin said during a ceremony on the 18th green.
The 24-year-old Thomas looked around on the green and said he knew most of the PGA members there dressed in blue sports coats, joking that he probably drove them crazy running around as a kid.
His father laughed.
“You can’t pick and choose which tournaments you are going to win, but the PGA Championship, probably for my father more than me, was so special,” Mike Thomas said.
Mike Thomas remembers playing his son for a few bucks on the golf course. Those days, he said, are long gone. While they still play once or twice a year, he jokes that this wallet can no longer take the beating .
“I can’t play with him anymore — it’s no fun,” he said with a laugh.
He knew early on his son had the potential to be a special player, but never envisioned or worried about what his future might hold.
“This is pretty crazy, pretty surreal,” Mike Thomas said. “I never dreamed of him winning the PGA Championship. I’m just like any other parent. I hope he’s safe and I hope he’s happy. This is icing on the cake here. We are blessed to be where we are at today.”
Mike Thomas described his son as a good-natured kid who is “mischievous at times,” and seems to enjoy pulling pranks on his friends.
Some of those friends were around the green Sunday helping him celebrate his first major championship and fourth victory of the season, including Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Bud Cauley.
He also said his son can get a “little fiery” on the golf course, and that at times he needs to be more patient.
Mike Thomas offered just one bit of advice before the final round Sunday: Don’t worry if you make a bogey.
“I pointed out to him that you are second in the field in birdies,” Mike Thomas said. “If you make a bogey that’s no big deal. He didn’t make a double bogey this week, which is huge. When you are making birdies, you can afford to make a bogey every now and again.”
Like any parent, Mike Thomas was full of nerves as his son maneuvered his way through the Quail Hollow’s Green Mile, the three most difficult closing holes in golf.
Even after Justin sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to take a three-shot lead, he wasn’t ready to celebrate.
“I mean 18 is tough, look at (what happened to) Jason Day on Saturday,” Mike Thomas said, referring to Day’s quadruple bogey 8 that took him out of contention for the championship. “When he was on 18 I was just like, ‘Hit on land, hit in a tent somewhere, hit it in a bunker and let’s move on. Just stay on land.”
Justin did just that, safely navigating the treacherous hole and making bogey to win by two shots.
Mike Thomas has been there every step of the way during Justin’s growth as a player. In fact, he’s kept every golf ball from every tournament Justin has ever won.
He has 131 of them.
So did he get the ball he used on Sunday?
“You mean this one?” Mike Thomas said as he reached into his pocket and pulled it out.
Although this win was special for the Thomas family, this ball will go alongside all of the others.
“It’s just another win,” Mike Thomas said.
(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)