Michele Thomson may have felt she “turned professional too early” in her first foray into the paid ranks but, having decided to take a second bite at the cherry after a break from golf that included a spell as a policewoman, the Aberdonian looks eager to make up for lost time.
A couple of days after being starstruck when she met Lydia Ko in the build-up to the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open, Thomson outscored the world No 1, as well as top-ranked Scot Catriona Matthew, after enjoying a memorable LPGA Tour debut at Royal Adelaide.
The 28-year-old was tied for the lead after racing to the turn in four-under and eventually finished with a splendid five-under-par 68 to sit as the leading European in joint-sixth, three shots behind home pacesetter Katherine Kirk after she produced a flawless opening salvo.
Like Kirk, Thomson made the most of playing in calm conditions before a strengthening sea breeze caused problems for the afternoon starters, including Matthew. With two double-bogeys on her card, the North Berwick woman had to settle for a 76, three shots more than Gemma Dryburgh, the third Scot in the field.
“It was perfect actually and it was just good to get a score on the board,” said Thomson of enjoying the best of the weather. “I was nervous last night trying to sleep, but once I’d hit that first tee shot I felt good. I’m really pleased with how I handled myself today. I thought anything under par would be good, but I never expected five-under so I’m ecstatic and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Her story is one that can be educational for young Scottish amateurs, both female and male. She wasn’t equipped, after all, for life in the paid ranks just under a decade ago despite having a Scottish Women’s Championship success and Curtis Cup appearance on her CV.
“Looking back, the one thing I have learned is that I probably turned professional too early,” said Thomson, who is attached to Meldrum House, where her coach, Neil Marr, is based. “I was not ready and did not enjoy the isolation. In those days, we did not have the Access Tour (the LET’s feeder circuit), so there was limited opportunities for us and we had to hit the ground running.”
Unable to do that first time around, Thomson put her career on hold but, helped by a confidence-boosting campaign on the Access Series last season, finishing fourth on the Order of Merit to get back on the LET circuit again, a decision to give it another go is definitelty being vindicated.
“After a short break, where I joined the police force, I saw my Curtis Cup colleagues doing well on Tour and I thought, why not give it another go as I always felt I was good enough and, as soon as I played my first event, I was hooked,” she added.
“The Access Series has been an excellent stepping stone, not just for me but also someone like Pamela Pretswell (pictured left), who has gone on to achieve so much on the LET in a short time.
“The competition gets harder every year and many of the main Tour professionals use some of the events to fill in the gaps in between main Tour events, so playing against them regularly lets you know how you are performing.
“I am a firm believer that to become a better player you have to play against the best and there is some real quality on the Access Series just waiting on their opportunity to graduate to the main Tour. I have many friends there and I hope to play one or two Access Series events this year if the schedule permits.”
Her main focus will be the LET and, with a promising start on that already under her belt thanks to a solid performance in last week’s Oates Vic Open, exciting times look to be lying ahead for the bubbly Scot getting her second chance.