My Golf Mentor

Who has made a lasting impression on your life?

We all have had someone who has had an impact on all of us as people.  Most of us have been guided through the course of our lives by our parents, teachers, friends, more than likely a little of all three.  There always seems to be one, though, that has played a more significant part in our lives.  That one very special person for me, was Mr. Jimmy A. Thompson PGA professional.

Jimmy was the Head Golf Professional at Montebello Golf Course, in Montebello, California.  I was first introduced to Jimmy in 1963.  Mr. Doyle introduced me to Jimmy, and thought it would be an opportunity to make some extra money as a caddy, even though I wasn’t playing golf at that time.  Jimmy and Mr. Doyle taught me what was required to be a caddy, and that launched me on my golf career.

From the very start Jimmy was always there with any questions I had, and was invaluable in my growth and knowledge in the game of golf.   Never did he show any impatience with me, or gave the impression that anything was too trivial.   As time went by, I would work part time in the golf shop cleaning and dusting, and cleaning and dusting…..and cleaning and dusting.  To this day, I am still trying to figure out what this had to do with my golf career? (although am pretty certain that what he was trying to instill in me was that to become really good at something you need to start at the bottom and work your way up).
After a while Jimmy developed enough faith in my caddying ability, he hired me to caddy for him when he played in tournaments.  This was quite a step up for someone who just started in the game a year or so before.  During that time Jimmy started teaching me how to play and manage the game, and how to help my ‘loops’ (people that I caddied for) manage their games. That knowledge alone helped add to the income.

A few years went by and I was playing more golf, finished high school, went to work at Sears, got married and was not really sure what my career was to be.

Then, in May of 1969, the opportunity of a lifetime was presented to me.  Jimmy offered me the Assistant Golf Professional position at Montebello.  This is when my education in life really started.  One of the first things Jimmy taught me was that the most important thing about anyone is their name.  Try to remember them.  Treat everyone the same whether they can buy and sell the golf course, or they can barely scrape up the $2.50 to play (that’s right green fees were $2.50 in 1969).

Jimmy did more with his actions, rather than his words, to demonstrate the proper way to handle one’s self in the game.  He insisted on playing the game with complete respect and adherence to it’s Rules and code of conduct and would not tolerate ignorance of either.
Jimmy was also a great teacher of the game, and a great teacher of teachers.  We have a tendency to use the term great rather too loosely, but with Jimmy it is definitely appropriate..  Jimmy had the patience of Job.  He took the time with a young golf professional to help him on an almost daily basis, not only to improve his game, also his teaching skills.  What a lucky guy I was to be in the right spot at the right time.

Jimmy instilled in me the search for a better and simpler way to swing the club.  He always felt that we were trying to make the swing too complicated, and he could not see why.  He studied and read everything about the swing he could get his hands on, and told me to do the same.  I can hear him today: “you may not agree with all of it, but there is going to be something in there that is going to help you communicate a concept or a feel to the student.   You will never know all there is, so keep learning”.

Every time I go to the golf course, to teach, to play or to practice, Jimmy A. Thompson is there with me.  There has been no one in my life that has had more passion or love of the game than Jimmy.  I am always looking up to the heavens, asking for some help with a student, or some help with my swing.  There really are no words to express my gratitude for all that Jimmy has done for me.  I guess the best way, would be to pass on the values, passion and love of the game Jimmy tried to instill in me.

Unfortunately, this little tribute does not come close to describing all that Jimmy has done for me.  I sincerely hope you all have a Jimmy in your lives, and that you let that special person know, how you feel.

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