A year after his victory in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, Texan Robert Thompson remains confident that he can continue to play well against National Championship-level competition.
"I have been playing some on the Champions Tour a good amount this year and my game is in order," said Thompson. "I know if you ask many of the top playing PGA Club Professionals who are my age if they think they can win these type of events, they will tell you, 'If I can stay healthy, I can be in the thick of things every time I play.' "
Thompson, a PGA teaching professional at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas, used his trademark steady pace to capture the last year's Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship.
The 54-year-old resident from Huntsville, Texas, rallied from a one-stroke deficit with birdies on both par 5s on the back nine of the South Course at Toscana Country Club for a two-stroke victory.
Thompson earned $20,000 from a purse of $285,000 and became the second player in PGA of America history to win a PGA Assistant Championship (1986) and a Senior PGA Professional National Championship, following in the footsteps of Bill Loeffler of Highlands Ranch, Colo., who won the PGA Assistant Championship in 1992 and the Senior PGA Professional National Championship in 2007.
"It was a lot of fun to win last year and I sure did play well all week," said Thompson. "Everything seemed to go right all at once."
Thompson will look for the same result this year, when he tees off with 264 PGA Club Professionals in the 23rd edition of the Championship, Oct. 6-9, at Creighton Farms in Aldie, Va., and River Creek Club in Leesburg, Va.
"I have never played the golf courses [Crieghton Farms and River Creek Club] but I have heard nothing but good things," said Thompson. "I am going to get there early, get a feel for the courses and map out a strategy so I can figure out where to hit it and where not to hit it. It's going to be fun."
This also marks the Senior PGA Professional National Championship's first year of title sponsorship by Southworth Development, which has headquarters in Newton, Mass., and presenting sponsor Mercedes-Benz.
The National Champion will have his name inscribed on the Leo F. Fraser Trophy, while the low 35 finishers will qualify for the 2012 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, May 24-27, at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich.
The top eight finishers, including ties, will receive exemptions into the 2012 Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship and the top five finishers will be exempt into the Champions Tour National Finals at TPC Scottsdale, provided they have submitted an entry by the entry deadline.
The field for this year's Championship features nine past Champions, including defending champion Robert Thompson of Huntsville, Texas, Bill Britton (2009) of Rumson, N.J.; Jeff Coston (2006) of Blaine, Wash.; Kirk Hanefeld (2008) of Acton, Mass.; Tom Joyce (1990, '91) of Huntington, N.Y.; Bill Loeffler of Castle Rock, Colo.; Ed Sabo (2000, '01) of Tequesta, Fla.; Mike San Fillipo (2002, '05) of Hobe Sound, Fla.; and Jim White (2004) of Lincoln, Neb.