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.