Justin Thomas' win brings Grand Slam to Bellefonte Country Club
Bellefonte Country Club couldn't have scripted a better way to complete its own version of golf's Grand Slam.
Kentuckian Justin Thomas is one of the favorite sons of the long-standing Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior at Bellefonte. On Sunday, the 24-year-old won his first major at the PGA Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.
With that, Bluegrass Junior alumni now have captured the top prize in all four of golf's main events.
"I think it's an amazing feat," said BCC general manager Stan Timberlake. "It shows the level of quality players we've had here through the years."
Jeff Bostic, the club's head pro, said the place has been buzzing since Thomas' victory.
"I know a lot of members and the last couple of days that's all I've heard," Bostic said. "Justin's very well-respected. The years he played here, when he finished the tournament he was the first to come up and shake my hand and thank Bellefonte for hosting the event."
Thomas is a two-time Bluegrass Junior champion, setting the tournament record of 198 in 2009.
Beginning as an early teen, he made four trips from his home near Louisville to hone his skills at Bellefonte in the American Junior Golf Association's oldest event.
"I remember watching him," Bostic said. "You could just tell he was going to be something special. Even when he was 13, he was hitting every fairway."
Jeff Conley's start as tournament chairman coincided with Thomas' first Bluegrass Junior title.
"Justin was a fun kid to be around and mature beyond his years," Conley recalled. "He made friends easily. The members of Bellefonte always took to him, too."
Timberlake said the club has since sent congratulatory notes to Thomas on various career milestones.
Prior to this year's Bluegrass Junior, golf flags signed by Thomas were among prizes given out after the Junior-Am Tournament.
Tom Cooksey played a major role in bringing the event to Bellefonte in 1984. He subsequently served as chairman and longtime rules official.
"You never would have dreamed back then that we would have this kind of success," he said. "It's to the credit of many people getting behind the event, beginning with Bellefonte's membership and volunteers."
Two years ago, Cooksey compiled the tournament's history into book form.
"I've thought since Bubba Watson won the Masters in 2012, wouldn't it be neat if somebody from our tournament won the PGA Championship," he said.
Five years later, Cooksey didn't miss Thomas' big moment.
"Words can't describe it," Cooksey said. "I was actually screaming in my TV room when Justin was making a couple of those shots. I was absolutely elated to see it happen."
Cooksey even came up with a headline: "Bellefonte Country Club Claims Golf's Grand Slam."
Ben Curtis took care of phase one in 2003 by winning the British Open -- nine years after he finished atop the Bluegrass Junior leaderboard with rounds of 70-69-69.
Jim Furyk placed third here as a junior in 1987 on his way to launching a highly successful professional career. He was the U.S. Open champion in 2003.
Watson took care of the Masters portion of the "Bellefonte Grand Slam" with titles in both '12 and '14. Two decades prior to that, he finished fifth at BCC in the 13-14 age division.
Cooksey's lengthy work as a rules official across Kentucky also allowed him to watch Thomas come onto the scene and begin his rise to stardom.
"I wish you could put a name to it, that secret ingredient," Cooksey said. "The one thing that impressed me most about Justin early on was his strong concentration. He knew why he was out there. He didn't let anything distract his attention on what he was there to do, and that was to play golf."
This article is written by Rocky Stanley from The Daily Independent, Ashland, Ky. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.