Ams Making Most Of Exemptions
For professional golfers, champions’ gifts
often include a dollar-sign on an oversized check.
For juniors like Justin Thomas, the oversized
check he received after winning the 2009 Foot-
Joy Invitational had two very meaningful words:
The 2009 FootJoy Invitational marked the first
year a sponsor’s exemption to the PGA Tour’s
Wyndham Championship was promised to the
tournament champion. After winning the American
Junior Golf Association’s Invitational in 2008, Cam-
eron Peck, of Olympia, Wash., earned a sponsor’s
exemption of his own, and his great play at that
year’s Wyndham Championship inspired Tourna-
ment Director Mark Brazil to make the relationship
between his event and the AJGA more permanent.
“It’s mainly about developing relationships with
the next best players in the world, and that’s what
we have in the FootJoy Invitational,” Brazil said. “It
provided unique exposure for Justin, the tournament and for FootJoy, so we saw it as a win-win.”
Brazil and the Tour created an opportunity that
gave 99 of the world’s best juniors extra motivation
as they played Sedgefield Country Club,
home of the Wyndham Championship.
In the first round of the 2009
FootJoy Invitational, Thomas shot
72, seven shots off the pace,
and admits that his
mindset was far
from earning the
tion. He cut the deficit
to three shots after
rounds of 66 and 67, but
didn’t even consider him-
self in contention until he made four front-nine
birdies on the final day.
Three more birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 17 turned
the tables and gave him a two-shot lead with one
hole remaining. As he recalls, that’s when it hit him.
“When I was walking up No. 18, I knew I had a
two-shot lead and I thought, man, I basically just
need to finish this hole without dying and I’m going to play in the Wyndham Championship,” said
Thomas, whose final-round 67 punctuated an
8-under-par total and a two-shot victory.
Using this experience to his benefit, Thomas
shot an eye-opening 65 in the first round of the
Wyndham Championship, which tied him for fifth.
As a result, more people started to pay attention
to the 16-year-old from Goshen, Ky.
“My dad and I were very impressed with how
the players talked with me and interacted with
me,” said Thomas, who added that many of the
pros teased him about the college recruiting process and the schools he was considering.
Thomas followed with a second-round 72 and
became the third-youngest player in PGA Tour
history to make the cut. Only Tadd Fujikawa (2007
Sony Open) and Bob Panasik (1957 Canadian
Open) did so at a younger age.
Experience and maturity is what Thomas says
he took away from his week at the Wyndham
Championship. Justin’s 2010 schedule includes
major amateur tournaments, such as the Northeast Amateur, Southern Amateur and U.S. Amateur. His ultimate goal is to make the 2011 Walker
Cup team after his freshman year at Alabama.
Thomas will be among the 99 players competing in the 2010 FootJoy Invitational this week. l
Special to GGP
IMG LEADBETTER JUNIOR GOLF TOUR
CHANGING THE GAME!
Take part in the experience as IMG and David Leadbetter join forces to form the IMG Leadbetter Junior Golf Tour.
Players will compete in tournaments on some of the best venues around the nation with some of the best junior players
in the game. In addition, IMG will share their world renowned athlete training knowledge through the Leadbetter
Series helping golfers “Get the Mental Edge” and “Play like a Champion”.
Memberships are now available at www.imgleadbetterjgt.com! Joins us August 13-15 for the inaugural tournament at
the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.
For more information or to register visit www.imgleadbetterjgt.com or