Given its connection to Australian cinematic royalty, Jack Thompson is a name you should never forget.
His namesake received his first Best Actor AFI award in 1975 for two films, no less – Sunday Too Far Away and Petersen – but Jack Thompson the golfer has struggled to receive the recognition of his young contemporaries.
Next week’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane may be short on recognised PGA Tour and European Tour stars but will showcase a new generation of professionals who simply need opportunities to display their skills.
As the likes of Elvis Smylie, Gabi Ruffels, Jed Morgan, Grace Kim and Louis Dobbelaar were feted upon joining the professional ranks in 2021, Thompson turned pro and simply started competing.
He was top-10 on debut at TPS Sydney last March, was tied for second at the Golf Challenge NSW Open and nine months later in his next four-round tournament was tied for seventh at the Victorian PGA Championship at Moonah Links won by another young star in Blake Windred.
A week later Thompson broke through for his first professional win at the Gippsland Super 6 tournament, rising more than 350 spots in the Official World Rankings to end 2021 ranked 565th in the world.
Hailing from Port Lincoln seven hours west of Adelaide across the Spencer Gulf, Thompson is accustomed to life far from the spotlight but has noticed how slow people have been to take note of his emergence.
“Sometimes I do feel that I’m not at the forefront. I thought after the NSW Open, even though it was second place, I did well and that I might have got more out of that,” Thompson concedes.
“Even as an amateur at the Queensland Open (in 2020), losing in the playoff there got remembered for a little bit and then forgotten.
“I don’t play for that recognition but it’s hard sometimes not to think about it. I just try to use it as motivation and let my results do the talking.
“The thing for me is that I’ve always played solid but I’ve only won the Riversdale Cup as an amateur so it’s hard because, at the end of the day, winning’s winning.
“I don’t play because I want to be in the spotlight, I play because I want to play golf and I love playing golf and for moments where you win and you can celebrate it.
“It’s not that I’m searching for the credit or anything but it is nice when you do get it.”
Truth be told, nothing has come easy for Thompson.
His father passed away when he was only young and as he sought to advance his golf career in Adelaide his mother remained in Port Lincoln.
In 2015 he quit the South Australian junior state team and it was only at the urging of his friend Tyson who watched him shoot consecutive rounds of eight and nine-under on a weekend at Grange Golf Club that he committed himself to the game again.
When he did he sought out Adrian Wickstein, who had taken over the junior state team shortly before Thompson walked away.
“He approached me at the Women’s Australian Open at the start of 2018,” recalls Wickstein, who had just been appointed Golf Australia State High Performance Manager for South Australia when Thompson came calling.
“He said that he really wanted to take his golf seriously again which is something that you hear all the time as a coach. But he just hit the ground running. He was into it. He’s up there with one of the hardest workers that I know and he puts the time into his game.
“But as a youngster, at 19 or 20, he just had no clue about the extra stuff that’s involved in golf.
“Everyone always says to me, ‘What are his best assets?’ And I always say, ‘His head is the best one, and then probably his putting, and the all-round game.’
“He’s just an accumulator of good scores. He’s built for a season on a tour. That’s where he’ll benefit, from playing a number of events in a row.
“And he’s proved that in the Australian events that he has played, that he can contend.
“When he gets a major tour card or something like that, he’ll hopefully hit the ground running and it won’t stop.”
Wickstein, who also coaches two-time Hong Kong Open champion Wade Ormsby, will be on the bag for Thompson at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship starting at Royal Queensland Golf Club on January 13.
The pair have joked about trading in the Titleist Staff bag with ‘Jack Thompson’ emblazoned on its belly for the lighter carry bag, Thompson grateful for the support Wickstein has provided on and off the golf course.
“He’s great in guiding me in the right direction,” Thompson adds.
“As much as he’s been my golf coach he’s been my direction in life. Making sure that I’m doing the right things.
“He’s always been good in making sure I do the right things and thank the right people.”
Thompson was thanking sponsors and staff and volunteers at Warragul Country Club at the Gippsland Super 6 presentation in December when he was asked whether he could win the Joe Kirkwood Cup in January.
His reply of, “I don’t see why not” elicited a mix of laughter and guffaws amongst the crowd in attendance yet it was nothing more than the honest opinion of a young player growing in self-belief.
He knows that winning the Australian PGA Championship would make the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit a genuine possibility and open the doors to take his game to the rest of the world.
When that happens, everyone will remember the name Jack Thompson.
Tickets for the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship and Fortinet Australian WPGA Championship are now available through Ticketek. Click here for ticket information.