Thompson adds new equipment and instructor on way to winning on the Nationwide tour

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Kyle Thompson

Kyle Thompson

Kyle Thompson doesn’t have to be reminded how fast time goes by.

It wasn’t that long ago when he was a fresh-faced pro in his early 20s hoping to make waves on the Nationwide Tour. Now he’s 31 and in his eighth year on Tour, he sees things through a different lens.

“I used to kind of hang out more and maybe not take care of myself as well I should have,” said Thompson, a 2001 graduate of South Carolina. “But I’ve got a family now so I can’t hang with the guys as much.”

Thompson and his wife, Emmi, have a daughter, Sophie, who will be 2 soon and another baby on the way that’s due in August. They live in Greenville, S.C. and whenever possible the entire family travels together to tournaments.

“I’ve really tried to take it more seriously and it’s just maturity,” said Thompson, a two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour in 2007 when he had his best season. “I really hit the weights hard in the off-season trying to get stronger because if there’s a trait out here for the guys that move on to the PGA TOUR it’s that they all bomb it.”

Thompson was hoping to get off to a good start last week at the Panama CLARO Championship. He says he accomplished that goal with a tie for 10th with rounds of 68-65-71-70 to finish at 6 under for the tournament.

The Nationwide Tour will move to the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open Presented by Samsung this week.

Thompson made several off-season changes from equipment to clothes to and hooked up with Dale Lynch, an instructor who works at The Cliffs in South Carolina. Lynch works with several players including Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and Mathew Goggin, who wound up winning the Panama CLARO Championship on Sunday.

The biggest thing that Lynch has helped Thompson with is his set up, which tends to waver at times.

“He’s helped me with some little things like with my set up and with my putting,” Thompson said. “I just wanted to hit the re-set button for this year and that’s kind of what I did and I’m looking for a fresh start.”

Thompson was a regular on the Nationwide Tour from 2003 until 2007, when he won twice in ’07 and did finished high enough on the money list to earn his PGA TOUR card for 2008. He’s won more than $1 million on the Nationwide Tour, which he says is both good and bad. He ranks 15th on the career money list of the 22-year-old Nationwide Tour.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed about,” he said about earning just a little more than $1 million in 186 career tournaments (100 cuts made).

When he played on the PGA TOUR in 2008 he made 26 starts but made just eight cuts. He had one top 25 finish with a tie for 15th at the Puerto Rico Open. He finished a distant 211th on the PGA TOUR money list with just over $150,000.

Because Thompson had a taste of the PGA TOUR he is hoping to get back there, and knows that every top-10 he can get this season will help him achieve that goal.

Last season was a comeback season for Thompson as he finished 49th on the Nationwide Tour money list. In 2009 he suffered what he called the “worst year of his life” on the course where he plummeted to 148th on the money list.

He has trouble explaining what went wrong in 2009, and while he fell short of his goal in 2010 of making the PGA TOUR, again he was thrilled with how he rebounded.

“That’s why I really feel good about this year,” Thompson said. “This is the best I’ve ever felt and with the changes I’ve made I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything goes.”

With his first top 10 already in the books, Thompson says that bodes well for how the rest of his season might look like.

As a wily veteran of the Nationwide Tour he can draw on his experience each week.

“It’s definitely an advantage knowing the courses even though this first week the conditions were different from years past,” Thompson said. “It’s usually pretty firm but they had a lot of rain and the course played soft so that was an adjustment.”

While some players try not to think too much about the PGA TOUR, Thompson is a little different.

“I think about every day because if you want it bad enough you have to keep working hard,” he said.

Thompson joked that one perk of the PGA TOUR is the daycare that’s provided at most tournament stops.

“I guess that’s another reason to try and get back there,” Thompson said laughing.

He’s hoping for another shot at the TOUR, but it’s about more than his growing family.

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Presnell takes lead in Panama Claro Championship

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Alistair Presnell

Alistair Presnell

Alistair Presnell snuck in one last birdie before darkness fell on the weather-plagued Panama Claro Championship Saturday evening. Presnell canned a six-footer at the par-5, 12th hole to reach 11-under par and take temporary possession of the third round lead in the opening event on the 2011 Nationwide Tour schedule.

The tournament has been hampered by early afternoon storms that have kept each of the first three rounds from being completed on time. Only 24 of the 64 players who made the cut, which didn’t come until early Saturday afternoon, managed to finish the third round. The remaining 40 will return Sunday morning to finish round three and then, hopefully, everyone will start and complete the final round. Sunday’s winner will collect $99,000.

Presnell is the leader of the pack, for now. The former air conditioning mechanic from Australia was 5-under for the day before play was halted for good just before 6:30 p.m. ET.

“I’ve been hitting it pretty good all tournament, apart from the first five holes of it,” said Presnell, who was two-over through five holes before the first weather stoppage on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve been hitting it good ever since. Today was no different. I’ve been hitting my irons in reasonably close and giving myself a number of opportunities. It’s been a good two and a half days.”

Presnell leads by two over Kyle Reifers and Erik Compton, who shared the 36-hole lead with former U.S. Amateur Champion Danny Lee. Reifers and Compton are even after 10 holes and 9-under for the tournament.

At eight under par and at various points around the golf course are Steve Wheatcroft, Elliot Gealy, Kyle Thompson and Scott Sterling.

Lee is in a group of four players at 7-under and currently four back. The 20-year old from New Zealand was cruising along nicely and had it to 12-under par and held the lead through eight holes before disaster struck on the dogleg left, ninth.

Lee’s tee shot hit a tree and bounced out of bounds to the left. His next one wound up in the same trees, which blocked his direct path to the green. His fourth was long and right of the putting surface where he needed a drop from the cart path. After finally getting on, he three-putted from 45 feet for a quadruple-bogey 8.

“Everything went wrong on nine and ten,” said Lee, who subsequently bogeyed number 10. “I though I hit a good tee shot on nine. I got lucky that I am stopping right now instead of keep playing. If I keep going, there’s no guarantee. When you’re on fire and everything’s going well, you don’t want to stop but I was struggling the last two holes and I think it’s a good thing that I got to stop.”

South Carolina’s Tommy Biershenk tops the list of those that have completed 54 holes. The former Clemson standout posted a 4-under 66 and is in at 6-under 204.

Saturday Third-Round Notes:

• Third-round play was suspended at 3:45 p.m. and resumed at 4:10 p.m. as a fast-moving
thunderstorm passed nearby. Players were called in off the course but returned quickly to the course. Play was suspended due to darkness at 6:25 p.m.

• Players will return to the course Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and finish the third round. Fourth-round tee times will run from approximately 10 a.m. to noon. Play will be in threesomes off both the 1st and 10th tees.

Roberto Castro played the first 36 holes without a bogey but suffered a bogey-5 on his opening hole this afternoon.

Saturday Second-Round Notes:

• The second round resumed at 8:00 a.m. with 66 players returning to finish play. The round was completed at 12:40 p.m.

• A total of 64 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 1-over-par 141. This is the seventh time in the tournament’s eight-year history that the cut has been over par. Last year’s cut was a record 1-under par.

• The second-round scoring average for the par-70 course was 70.679.

• Here is how the scoreboard looked when play was suspended on Friday evening:

1. Kyle Reifers 65-66131 (9-under)
2. Kyle Thompson 68-65133 (7-under)
Rich Barcelo 7-under thru 3 holes
4. Mathew Goggin 68-66134 (6-under)
Gavin Coles 64-70134 (6-under)
Alistair Presnell 69-65134 (-6-under)

• Here is how the scoreboard looked when the second round was completed early Saturday afternoon:

1. Kyle Reifers 65-66131 (9-under)
Danny Lee 66-65131 (9-under)
Erik Compton 64-67131 (9-under)
4. Kyle Thompson 68-65133 (7-under)
Scott Sterling 68-65133 (7-under)
Greg Owen 66-67133 (7-under)
7. Four players tied at 6-under 134

• This is the first time in the tournament’s eight years that there are co-leaders after 36 holes. In each of the first seven seasons there was an outright leader at the halfway point.

• Former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee of New Zealand birdied four of his final six holes for a 5-under 67 and a share of the 36-hole lead.

• Erik Compton birdied two of his final three holes for a 67 and a share of the second-round lead. Compton was also part of a three-way tie after 18 holes.

• Players who were bogey-free in the second round: Danny Lee (65), Greg Owen (67), Alistair Presnell (65), Andrew Svoboda (67), Tyrone Van Aswegan (67), Robert Castro (69).

• Roberto Castro 65-69 134 (6-under) is the only player without a bogey over the first two days.

• Kyle Reifers and Erik Compton lead the field with 12 birdies each through two rounds.

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