When Jonathan Thomson returned north from The Open, not only had he written his name in the history books, but more importantly, all his hard work after a rollercoaster ride from his childhood had paid off.
Rotherham-born Thomson, ranked 742nd in the world, certainly enjoyed a debut Open to remember – finishing in a tie for 53rd alongside Rickie Fowler and Co – but it was his hole-in-one on the iconic par-3 16th who will live forever in the memory.
On a hole that has beaten many of the best golfers over the years – most notably in 2003 when Thomas Bjorn infamously broke his lead on the final day when he needed three shots to get out of the bunker – Thomson surprised those spectators who were lucky enough to attend with an ace that went viral.
Jonathan Thomson celebrates after his hole-in-one on the 16th at his memorable Open debut
“It’s hard to describe, it’s a sound that will stay with me forever,” Thomson said Sports post. “The crowd was just amazing.
“But then of course to do it in my first major, and to get all the publicity I got. Yeah, you wouldn’t think of a better place to have a hole-in-one.’
More importantly, that signature ace saw the 25-year-old make the cut in a tournament that propelled him to new heights, playing alongside the likes of Lee Westwood and Harris English over the weekend.
Thomson can’t help but smile as he discusses his whirlwind Open debut, which also saw the first fall out of the bunker on the greenside on the final day. As a child he had finally made his dream come true, but for him this is just the beginning.
“I’ll never forget, Richard Mansell and I, when we qualified, we sat down on some grass and talked for a bit. And he said, “It’s really crazy, something you dream about as a kid and practice for, and every putt you make on the green, oh this is to win a major.”
“It was so surreal, but a really great experience. It was the culmination of all the great golf I’d probably played for a few months, but I just hadn’t gotten any real results. So it was just a nice gesture to the work and the time I put into it, and everything else that goes with it.
Thomson’s hole-in-one saw him make the cut for the weekend at Royal St George’s
“When I qualified, I called my missus on the golf course and we actually both started crying. Then I called my father, he started to cry. I was like “Oh god, I’ll talk to you later.”
“Hopefully it’s the first of many majors for me. The first one that’s so special, roughly how it turned out, will be one I’ll remember forever.”
Thomson, the tallest golfer on the European Tour with a height of no less than 1.80 metres, earned €24,909 in prize money for his T53 place.
But things nearly went awry on Thursday’s first few holes after a terrible start that could have destroyed the confidence of even the world’s best players.
“It really hit me when I got to that first tee, I was definitely bricking it,” Thomson added. “And of course I had a terrible start, I think I was four over by three holes, but that wasn’t really due to terrible golf either. I just committed some horrible crude lies like you’ve never seen before. And it was like wow welcome on Thursday at The Open.
“But I kept my head down, I got stuck, I came back to an over. That was probably pretty much something all week. I mean, we could have been back in the car on Thursday night, really ready to come home.’
Thomson, who stands at 6ft 9in, played with Lee Westwood in the third round of The Open
He may have “bricked it” while standing over his first tee shot at The Open, but Thomson – battling through the toughest experience anyone could ever imagine as a kid – didn’t let the opportunity get the better of him, and he soon found his groove.
After making the cut, he was paired with Westwood and world No. 10 English on Saturday in his final round. A way to end an already incredible week.
Thomson, affectionately known as ‘Jigger’, added: ‘When I played with Westwood, an English hero, we had a huge following all day long. So that was really cool.
“For me it was a huge boost to my confidence in the future. I played with two of the best players in the world, didn’t feel uncomfortable and my game was more than good enough to be with them.”
Thomson could talk all day long about his Open debut, but he quickly put his cherished experience into perspective.
Thomson certainly hasn’t had the journey you would expect from the everyday European Tour or PGA Tour golfer.
Thomson was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age seven and was not fully released until age 12, having missed a lot of school at the time.
Thomson, world 742nd, admitted he was ‘bricklaying’ it on the first tee Thursday
It robbed him of his early developmental years, and he was always trying to catch up with those of the same age.
And while Thomson now wants to climb the wave ladder and become a ‘champion’, the 25-year-old knows he’s already had the toughest battle of his life.
“I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, and I’ll keep saying it. It’s the toughest battle I’ll ever face in my life, and I think that brings it all back to reality.
“You’re having a great day on the golf course, you’re having a bad day on the golf course. Well actually it doesn’t matter that much. Even though I’d be lying at the time if I wasn’t emotional about it, getting annoyed and moaning. But it’s always there to remind you that there’s someone or something much worse off than you.
“We are privileged to play the game we play, and of course we are very good at it and committed. And I work very hard, and so does my team.
“But there will always be bad days and good days. So for me it just evens things out. Like I said, there’s nothing harder than that. I can tell you now.’
Jonathan Thomson spoke to Sportsmail in partnership with the leading UK coffee retailer coffee friend.