Thompson Brings Leadership to Patriot Golf Team
Nick Thompson is not only one of the best players on a strong Pinecrest golf team, but according to last year’s coach Sandy Sackmann, he’s a goodwill ambassador for the team and the high school.
Sackmann describes the Patriot senior as a person with an encouraging manner that makes teammates and opponents alike want to play with him.
“He probably has the best disposition of anybody on the team”, Sackmann said after Thompson earned medalist honors with a 69 at last year’s East Regional held at Pinehurst No. 6. “He speaks to every coach — he speaks to everybody on the golf course.”
New coach John Azzarelli made Thompson the captain of this year’s deep squad that includes six players that are freshmen or sophomores.
“I think Nick is a good guy,” sophomore Josh Stockwell, a regular in the Patriot lineup in both of his seasons says. “Being a team captain and all, he wants everybody to play well.”
Thompson grew up at Hyland Golf Club where his father, Doug, was the head professional for over 20 years before becoming the director of golf at Southern Pines Golf Club about a year ago. Until his teens, he played more soccer and baseball than golf.
“My dad taught me how to swing and stuff, but I’d never gone out and played an organized round of golf until pretty late,” he says. “I was really into hunting and fishing like I am now.
“I kind of got tired having to travel some place every week to play soccer or baseball. I started playing with my dad’s friends and saw how good they were. They’re all scratch golfers and they teach me all kinds of stuff you can’t learn any place except by doing that. That really made me want to play golf.”
Former Moore County amateur champion Sherrill Britt, and Pinecrest and UNC-Greensboro grad Andy Bare, who has been playing on the Nationwide Tour this year, are two of the local golfers he has enjoyed playing with.
The natural lefty, who plays right-handed, has made up for lost time in one respect. He already has five hole-in-ones to his credit. Two of them came in one round last June at Hyland, playing with teammates Alex Meade and Christian McDonald.
“He’s making a hole-in-one every month,” senior Sam Kosich joked before a recent Pinecrest practice round at No. 5.
Thompson has also demonstrated the ability to shoot low scores, including a 65 in a conference match at Pinecrest Country Club in Lumberton last spring and a 62 at Southern Pines Golf Club where he now works on the weekends for his father.
“Nick’s advantage is that he doesn’t make golf so important that he can’t function without it,” Doug Thompson says. “You know what? He didn’t get that from me. When I was his age there was nothing but golf.
“His strength is his confidence. He’s hit enough shots that he thinks he can make any shot. He putts too well not to get two or three birdies if he gets enough looks.”
Doug Thompson has played plenty of competitive golf, including a stint on the Sunshine Pro Tour (Africa). Still, his son admits he wasn’t always receptive to his father’s advice. Now that he’s listening, he’s passing some of that knowledge and experience on to younger teammates.
“I like sharing knowledge with the younger kids,” he says. “I was really hard-headed at that age and didn’t want to listen to anybody. The only way I knew was my way. I had to grow out of that so now I try to help them do that.”
He talked about one of the most important lessons he has learned about playing a round of golf.
“The younger kids tend to get into scores a lot,” he says. “They always judge by score and it’s hard to post a number when you’re thinking about that all the time. I tell them to take one shot at a time. I never put together a good round until I learned that.”
After graduation from Pinecrest, Thompson plan is to study criminal justice and play golf at Sandhills Community College. But, first comes the state tournament that will define this team.
Doug Thompson has learned first-hand from his career the pressure that comes from expectations. He touts the pre-shot routine as the best tool for combatting it.
“You don’t want to let anybody down so you want to reach your best potential,” he says. “To do that you need to try hard not to try hard. Here I am talking about it and I can’t find it, but I know it’s the place to be. Nick has learned to calm himself because he truly loves his teammates.”
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