Craig Thomas, PGA: A Life Spent Stepping Up
By Adam Stanley
Craig Thomas, PGA has spent his whole life stepping up. First when he was part of the U.S. Marine Corps. He’s also been a PGA Professional for 30 years.
While he’s always stepped up to help family, members, juniors, and fellow pros navigate any challenges they may have with the game they love, Thomas stepped up in a totally different way about five years ago.
And quite literally helped to extend a man’s life.
Thomas donated his kidney to a member at his club, Stewart Albrect, and gave him some more time with the people he loved.
Unfortunately, Albrect passed away about a year ago – not from anything to do with his kidney but due to a heart attack – but Thomas’ surgical effort allowed for something priceless for Albrect’s family: more time.
Golf connected these two.
“His sons said they were grateful for the four (extra) years they did have, which he might not have had,” said Thomas. “Unfortunately, not a happy ending for them but they’re grateful for the extra time they did get to spend with him.”
Thomas, who is the PGA Head Professional at Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, New York (he’s just wrapping up his 16th year), admits with a smile he’s been in the right place at the right time plenty in his life. His time in the service as part of the Marine Corps lasted for four years and he called it “life-changing.”
“The military was good for me because it was what I needed at the time. A little structure and balance,” he explained. “I was never really in trouble, but I was never far from trouble before that, and it aligned with my priorities.”
While serving, Thomas had a few great friends who played professional golf and while his time in the service was ending, they introduced him to some people who were in the golf business.
“I took my uniform off on Friday evening, and by Saturday morning I had my cleats working in the golf business,” he said, chuckling. “It’s been great. There’s nothing better than being a golf pro at a country club.”
The Albrect family is certainly thankful Metropolis had Thomas on staff.
Albrect, a long-time member of the club, wasn’t around as much as usual through 2016 and 2017. When he did show up, he didn’t look like himself, Thomas said. His wife is an avid golfer as well and was taking a lesson with one of Thomas’ assistants one day when it was mentioned to Thomas that Albrect needed a kidney.
“I went over,” said Thomas,” and I said I was pretty sure I could donate a kidney.”
Being in the service, Thomas knew his blood type and was likely as good a donor as any. Albrect called Thomas a few days later and told him he would mention it to his doctor. They ended up doing the surgery in January of 2018.
“I said, ‘Listen, I’ll do this but I’m doing this in the wintertime,’” said Thomas with a smile, knowing that he didn’t want his golf season to be interrupted. “Low and behold the recovery was a lot more than I anticipated. I had some issues in the procedure that required me to stay in the hospital a little longer than I thought. It took a little while to get back but in a year down the road I feel fine. I don’t notice any difference.
“You say you’d do something not really understanding the ramifications of it. It was a lot more of an involved process than I thought it would be. I had to go for all sorts of tests, and it was amazing all the things they put you through. But they want to make sure that the person who is donating (won’t have) any damage. It was good. It forced me to take a look at my own health a little more in depth.”
Regardless of the process, the surgery happened and Thomas – a former Metropolitan PGA Senior Player of the Year along with a Deacon Palmer Award winner – who stepped well beyond his usual job description, was thankful for the opportunity to help out someone in need.
Thankful for the connection made by golf.