This could finally be the year for Chris Thompson.
After 19 years of trying to make it to golf's highest professional level, grinding away on every mini-tour imaginable without a breakthrough, Thompson is within striking distance of the PGA Tour promotion he's been chasing since he graduated from Kansas in 1999.
"I feel like this is my best chance," Thompson said in a phone interview ahead of his appearance in this week's Wichita Open. "I'm off to a pretty good start this year with a pair of top 10 finishes and full status on the Web.com Tour. Hopefully, I can keep it going and crack the top 25. I have never really been close before."
Thompson currently ranks 60th on the Web.com Tour money list, having earned $53,246 in 12 events this year, and a strong showing at Crestview Country Club could push him within range of a spot in the top 25 and the coveted PGA Tour card that comes with it.
Call it the Holy Grail for a guy like Thompson, a 41-year old father of two who has never worked a real job in his life.
"Obviously, it is going to be mean a lot if it ever happens," Thompson said. "It's been a work in progress for close to two decades now. It would mean a lot, not just for me, but for all the people who have helped me, from family to sponsors and my wife. It would mean just as much to them as it would to me."
It's not like Thompson has never found success in professional golf tournaments. He once played in the U.S. Open and has qualified for PGA events. He has gone as low as 60 on the Web.com Tour and he is the man to beat at Lawrence Country Club, his home course.
He also had a heck of a college career at KU, twice achieving All-America status and once helping the Jayhawks win a Big 12 championship.
With $253,368 in career earnings, he's done enough to convince his wife to let him keep chasing the dream. They have that conversation at the end of each season.
He hasn't won a single event or played consistently well enough to climb past the Web.com Tour, but he's never thought all that hard about stopping. This year has been encouraging.
"You work pretty hard at this for a certain amount of time. It's just nice to see the success," Thompson said. "I have seen a lot of people do it. A lot of people I played with in college have advanced, and I haven't done it. That's frustrating, but it is incredibly difficult and it's supposed to be difficult. To achieve that at 41, I think would be a heck of an accomplishment."
The PGA Tour has never felt like a pipe dream for Thompson. But it's never seemed more attainable than it does right now, either.
Why? Start with his swing.
Through special training and customized clubs, Thompson is suddenly longer off the tee than he was in his 20s. His drive travels an average of 307.1 yards, which ranks 29th on the Web.com Tour. That's long enough to keep up with the rookies. He's also striking the ball with accuracy. Thompson is hitting 71 percent of greens in regulation this season, which also ranks 29th.
He likes to hit driver off the tee, especially on par 4s to leave short approach shots that require nothing more than a pitching wedge.
If he can drive the ball in the fairway this week, that could work to his advantage. A native of Independence now living in Lawrence, Thompson has found success at Crestview over the years. He loves playing in his home state.
Just last year, he shot four rounds in the 60s and finished tied for seventh. Duplicate that effort and he will climb up the money list. Improve on it and he could rocket into dream territory.
This article is written by Kellis Robinett from The Wichita Eagle and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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