Rhys Thompson is targeting a crack at the English Amateur Championship as looks to fulfil his ambition to become a golf professional.
The 21-year-old has enjoyed another impressive year in 2016, following on from last summer’s triumphs, which included the Durham County Match Play championship.
This year, the Boldon Golf Club member secured a memorable victory in the “Big Six”, as top individual golfer in the Northern Counties Championship.
He also won the prestigious Ravensworth Bowl and, for the second successive year, the Durham County Order of Merit, while landing the junior and men’s club championships on his home course at Boldon.
Thompson, who lives in Sunderland, carded rounds of 71 and 69 at Delamere Forest, in Cheshire, to finish with the lowest total in the Big Six, where Durham come up against Northumberland, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire.
He is looking to build on that triumph, with the aim to turn professional at the end of next year.
He said: “With winning the Northern Counties, I have a a free entry into the English Amateur Championship. It is difficult enough to qualify, so will take my chance next year.
“So, at the end of 2017, it is my intention to turn professional with the help and guidance of my current employee and hopefully some local sponsorship may come available.
“I have just turned 21 so lots of time to make it on the world stage.”
Asked about his highlight of 2016, Thompson added: “Without doubt, winning the Northern Counties Championship, known as the ‘Big Six”.
“It is the Northern Counties plus the Isle of Man, with five of the top players from the counties competing for the team and individual championship.
“I shot one under in the first round and three under in the second.
“To think I beat the best in the north means a lot to me.”
Apart from the English Amateur, Thompson has one other big target for his final campaign in amateur golf – the Durham County Stroke Play championship, which has so far eluded him, despite a string of outstanding challenges.
“I was disappointed with my play in the County Stroke Play, but four rounds around Wearside in two days is pretty tough, so finishing 10th for me was not bad,” he said.
“My focus next year will be to win the County Championship, I have finished top 10 for the last five years, so a win is hopefully due and very high on my list of things to win.
Thompson produced another impressive march to the later stages of the Durham County Match Play, but was beaten in the semi-finals.
He reflected: “Losing in the semi-final was not a disappointment.
“I was runner-up in 2014, winner in 2015 and was beaten on the day by a better player.
“James Wilson played very well, so I could not complain.”
Asked how he feels his game has developed in the last 12 months, the dedicated young golfer said: “Overall, my game is very consistent – every round of golf I am shooting under par or thereabouts and I’m still improving.
“I spend around five days a week on the practice ground, a couple of hours at a time, and most weekends playing either 36-hole scratch events or playing for the men’s County team.”
Thompson obviously has his head screwed on, proved by his university triumph.
He added: “The past three years, I have studies at Myerscough in Lancashire and gained a BA Honours Degree in Golf Management.
“The course studies a number of topics, from learning about green keeping, golf club management, health and nutrition, as well as playing a lot of national golf for the university.
“We were luckily enough to travel to the Turkish Airlines Open where we were course marshals, and only last year I worked for the BBC on course in the Walker Cup.
“Since then, I now work for Slaley Hall in the sales team, which is the stepping point to turn professional.”