It was exactly the type of moment Michele Thomson had dreamt of when she decided to give up pounding the beat as a policewoman in Aberdeen to have a second crack as a professional golfer. “You don’t get many chances to win a gold medal in the police force,” said the 30-year-old, sporting a huge smile.
That is now a distinct possibility for Thomson in the inaugural European Golf Team Championships at Gleneagles. After progressing to the semi-finals in tandem with Meghan MacLaren, the Scot is already guaranteed to pocket around £13,500, trebling her earnings for the season on the threadbare LET circuit. She’ll pocket close to £90,000 along with that gold medal if the pair go all the way in the women’s team event.
Don’t rule it out. Thomson and MacLaren came into this event as the self-proclaimed “underdogs” among the home teams. But winning is within their grasp. “We’re not under the radar now I suppose,” admitted MacLaren, a 24-year-old from Northamptonshire whose dad, David, is chief executive of the Staysure (seniors) Tour. “We have played our way out of that one. The semis is where we want to be, so we can’t complain.”
The pair have gelled brilliantly. After opening with two wins, they only needed a half against Finland in their final match in Group C. That was easier said than done. It took what her team-mate described as a “world-class pitch” from Thomson at the last for that mission to be accomplished. “That was the biggest putt of my career,” said the former Scottish Women’s champion after converting the subsequent 18-incher.
The third-ranked Great Britain team now take on France 2 pair Justine Dreher and Manon Molle. It’s already been a week to remember for Thomson, but that gold medal is now tantalisingly close. “This is the first time we’ve been in a European Championships, so to hole that putt to get us into the semis is amazing,” she added. “We have a chance of a medal. I missed these feelings when I was pounding the beat in the police.”
Watching on as she produced that brilliant pitch over a bank on the left side of the 18th green was Paul Lawrie, her fellow Aberdonian and an ambassador for this event. “That was a good Aberdeen shot,” he said of its low trajectory.
“It was probably one of the best shots I’ve played,” admitted Thomson. “I noticed Paul was out following us from the 14th, so that was nice to have him there supporting.”
After losing to the Swedish third string of Cajsa Persson and Linda Wessberg, Catriona Matthew and Holly Clyburn missed out on setting up an all-Great Britain clash in the other semi-final against the medal favourites, Georgia Hall and Laura Davies. The top-ranked home pair progressed with a 100 per cent record, matched only by Iceland in the men’s event.
“We played great the first day, and have done enough since then. But we have to step it up on Sunday if we want to trouble the medal ceremony,” said Davies.
She was aghast to hear that the semi-finals and final on Sunday are foursomes as opposed to fourballs, the format for the group phase. “We would like to have stayed with the same format, but it is down to time,” said Fredrik Lindgren, the European Championships 2018 board member for golf. Essentially, for TV purposes the action from pretty Perthshire has to be finished before the athletics start in Berlin at 5pm on Sunday.
“That’s a misprint. If it’s not, I’m going home,” said Davies, jokingly, of the change in format. Informed it was, in fact, the case, she added: “Why would they do that?” Just to add a bit more confusion for the 54-year-old, today’s mixed event is foursomes stroke-play and involves four players in a team.
The GB third string consists of Thomson, MacLaren, Connor Syme and Liam Johnston. For Syme and Johnston, that will be an opportunity to bounce back from the disappointment of losing a winner-takes-all tie against Italian duo Francesco Laporta and Alessandro Tadini on the final green.
The Scottish pair were on course for the last four when they turned with a two-hole lead only to lose three holes out of five from the 11th to join the top-ranked GB pair of Lee Slattery and Callum Shinkwin in failing to get the result they needed to stay in the medal mix.