Golf, and the PGA, link three generations of Justin Thomas' family

Justin Thomas
USA Today Sports Images
PGA Tour player Justin Thomas, whose father and grandfather are both longtime PGA Professionals, has also grown up in the game.
By John Holmes
PGA.com

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | 10:50 a.m.
 
 
ORLANDO – With the PGA of America kicking off the celebration of its Centennial year at the PGA Merchandise Show, a lot of the talk this week is of the men, women and families that have lived the game down through the years.
 
Among the more prominent golf clans at the Show is the Thomas family of Kentucky. Longtime PGA Professional Paul Thomas, now 84, is back home this week, but his son Mike, the head professional at Harmony Landing Golf Club in Goshen, Kentucky, and Mike's 22-year-old son Justin were on hand Wednesday morning to take part in Titleist's kickoff program.
 
Justin's love of golf has taken him to the PGA Tour, where he won the CIMB Classic last fall and is currently ranked No. 35 in the world. That affection for the game began when he was barely a toddler out with his dad on the course.
 
"I was playing a lot when he was young, and he was always riding around with me," Mike said. "He took his first swings at less than two years old. He always wanted to hit the ball – we never pushed him; he was always a self-starter when it came to golf."
 
In those early years, the father-son experience out on the course was all about having fun. "It wasn't about getting better," Mike explained. "I was just making sure it was a fun time every time we went out."
 
Justin picked up the game naturally and figured a lot of things out on his own, with Mike throwing in a tip here and there. Mike remains Justin's teacher, and his guidance certainly paid off – Justin went on to be the college player of the year in 2012 while leading Alabama to the NCAA title, play in the Walker Cup and become known as a member of the vaunted high school "Class of 2011" that also includes his good buddy Jordan Spieth.  
 
"I would just hit it and chase it, hit it and chase it," Justin said. "I loved being around my dad and granddad – he played with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Anytime he wanted to tell stories, I was happy to sit back and listen."
 
 
There is, however, one thing about his early years in golf that Justin would rather forget. In a video shown during the presentation, Mike refers to his young son as "Big J." Asked whether the "Big J" moniker stuck, Justin was adamant. "DO NOT," he insisted – with a smile – call me "Big J."  
 
JT, as he is now often called, will make his Masters debut this spring. In fact, he arrived in Orlando fresh off a scouting trip to Augusta National.
 
He had played the hallowed course once in college, but admitted he was so starstuck by the place that he didn't even remember part of his day there. This time around, he paid a lot more attention to detail. The course, he said, is in great shape, and he was pleased to see that it fit his game.
 
"It was great to be on the course and see the shots that you see on TV," he said. "It was cool to picture where everything will be."
 
One crucial part of his preparation – skipping balls over the pond on No. 16. "I thought I better practice that so I don't get booed," he laughed. 
 
Speaking of Masters Week and the Thomas family history in golf, it only makes sense that Dad will serve as his caddie during the Par-3 Contest. Right?
 
Well, no. With dear old Dad sitting right there at his side, Thomas announced that his mother, Jani, will do the honors this spring.
 
Dad didn't seem too upset at the news. Given the upward trajectory of Thomas' career, there's no doubt that he'll have plenty of chances to don the white coveralls for that hallowed Masters tradition.