Australian Jack Thompson graduated with first-class honours at the Asian Tour Qualifying School after winning the Final Stage by two shots from countryman John Lyras and China’s Bai Zhengkai.
Thompson, a professional for just two years, marked himself down as one to keep an eye out for as he closed with a five-under-par 66 for a five-round total of 22-under.
Bai returned a 65 while Lyras, who started the day sharing the lead with Thompson, shot a 68 on a tension-filled day at Lake View Resort and Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand.
American Michael Maguire (65) and Ye Wocheng (69) from China shared fourth, four back from the winner.
A total of 35 players out of 77 starters secured right of passage on to the Asian Tour this year — which promises to be the most lucrative in its history.
Nine players, tied on eight-under, competed in a sudden-death play-off for the last two cards which eventually went to Thomas Power Horan from Australia and England’s Ben Jones, after they both birdied the first.
Remarkably, 24-year-old Thompson made it into this week’s event by claiming the final qualifying berth at the First Stage Qualifying Section C tournament at Blue Canyon Country Club in Phuket, Thailand, at the start of the month.
And prior to that he had not been able to practise for three weeks because of a wrist injury.
Thompson said: “This is great, I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It has been a long week, I have been here for a fair few days now, it’s a relief and it’s just nice to win. There is always concern coming into an event if you can do it or not.
“I hadn’t really had the best prep coming in. I had hurt my wrist playing a shot in the Vic PGA last year so I could only hit a bucket of balls in three weeks. It slowly got better and better. Swinging the first qualifier I had no idea, then the next round I worked it out and it carried on from there. I am just super stoked.”
Thompson’s promise first revealed itself when he won the Gippsland Super 6 Match Play in just his fifth start on the PGA Tour of Australasia in 2021 and this success suggests more great things are to come from the young Australian.
“I have tried a few Q-Schools before and missed out so it’s really nice to have somewhere to play overseas now. I had a great group of Aussie guys here this week and that really helped,” added the Australian, who reached No. 31 in the world in the amateur rankings.
It was a two-horse race between Thompson and Lyras on the last day and they were tied on 22-under with three to play. Thompson then moved one ahead with a birdie on 17 before the pressure of a marathon week finally seemed to hit them when Thompson made a bogey on the last and Lyras a double.
“It’s been a goal of mine to get a card overseas for a few years now, and to finally get that done there’s a bit of relief there for sure. It’s very exciting,” said Lyras.
“I probably looked better than I felt, you know, I was trying to win the golf tournament. I did everything I could, and the putts just didn’t go in and it was one of those days, but I feel like those days are character building. We learn so much from them, where you pressed a few decisions here and there. A few little processes that could have maybe changed here or there.
“But ultimately for someone like myself, who hasn’t really been in contention that much at any golf tournament, days like these are the ones that will hopefully spur me on to keep gaining more experience and get more comfortable in that environment.”