It took more than 10 hours and 32 holes but Adelaide rookie Jack Thompson has shed the monkey gradually growing on his back with victory at the Gippsland Super 6 on Sunday.
Three bogeys in the space of five holes on day three put Thompson in jeopardy of missing the match play section altogether but once through he went on a giant-killing run to meet Jordan Zunic in the six-hole final.
The pair couldn’t be separated across the six-hole course set-up at Warragul Country Club and went into a playoff, Thompson’s sublime pitch shot from the left of the green resulting in a short putt for par.
Zunic also missed the green with his tee shot but missed his par attempt from 15 feet, allowing Thompson to complete the formalities and notch his first win as a professional.
Runner-up to Anthony Quayle in a playoff at the 2020 Queensland Open whilst still an amateur, Thompson has contended regularly in PGA Tour of Australasia events since turning pro in February and felt an overwhelming sense of relief as he cradled the trophy.
“It feels like a long-time coming,” said Thompson, who was runner-up at the Golf Challenge NSW Open in March and tied for seventh at last week’s Victorian PGA Championship at Moonah Links.
“It’s a surreal feeling at the moment.
“I just think back to all of the times I was runner-up and how much I hated losing. There were even times where I was wondering, Am I ever going to get over the line?
“Having to hole a good putt on 18 and then getting up-and-down from what I thought was a semi-tricky spot just makes it more satisfying.”
Two down with two holes to play against Jason Bugdalski in the opening match on Sunday morning, Thompson was contemplating Covid tests rather than championship glory.
A birdie putt from outside 25 feet and Bugdalski’s bogey on the fifth hole delivered a two-shot swing, Thompson advancing to round two at the first playoff hole.
It was there that he met No.1 seed Michael Sim and where the tournament was turned on its head. Six of the top-eight qualifiers who received byes in round one were bundled out in round two, Thompson riding the momentum that came from his comeback win in round one.
“I was in all sorts of trouble,” Thompson said of his match with Bugdalski.
“I was two down with two holes to go and I was kind of thinking about getting my Covid test so we could get in the car and drive, thinking I was going to be knocked out.
“I holed a really good birdie putt from 25 feet and he bogeyed so there was a two-shot swing. Parred the last and then won the knockout hole and thought, Let’s really take advantage of this.
“I shouldn’t have been in, he should have beaten me but I’m happy that I capitalised on that.
“I think it was an advantage for me playing in the morning. Even though they changed the pins, having got through the first round I’d played six holes and I was warmed up.
“He (Sim) has the luxury of sleeping in and going straight through but I feel it almost played into my hands.
“It’s almost like a blessing in disguise not qualifying in the top eight.
“I definitely tried to channel that and use that as my advantage.”
Thompson accounted for Brett Rankin in the quarter-final and the resurgent Rohan Blizard in the semi-final to set up a showdown with Zunic in the championship decider.
Like Thompson, Zunic had to go one extra hole before moving past Tim Hart in round one, following that up with wins over Andrew Dodt, Dimi Papadatos and Daniel Beckmann on his way to the final.
Despite the disappointment of losing in such dramatic fashion Zunic was all class in the presentation ceremony, congratulating Thompson for achieving such a significant milestone in his young career.
“I know what it’s like to have my girlfriend caddy for me when I won the Queensland Open so really enjoy this moment,” Zunic said, Thompson winning with girlfriend and outstanding golfer in her own right, Sarah Wilson, on the bag.
“First win as a pro is a really special moment so really enjoy it.”
In the playoff for third and fourth Beckmann got the better of Blizard in the regulation six holes.