19th Hole: John Thompson

By |  May 16, 2019 1 Comments
John Thompson (Photo: Lou Ferraro, Park South Photography)

John Thompson (Photo: Lou Ferraro, Park South Photography)

John Thompson

Superintendent // Sycamore Hills GC, Fort Wayne, Ind.

John, what can I get you? A cold beer, an IPA … do they have Lagunitas?

Tell me about your family. I married my high school sweetheart, Melissa. We’ve been married for 24 years, and we wanted kids right away. Emma is 22, Charlie is 20, Jack is 18, Betsy is 14 and Henry is 12.

Five kids! How do you have your job and at the same time have five kids? I give all the credit to my wife. She calls herself the “controller of chaos.” She’s a registered nurse, but she quit working and raised our family. And actually, all my kids help out on the golf course. They all have worked tournaments with me … my boys can do anything I can do on the golf course.

What does the family do for fun? We cook as a family. Cooking is my hobby. We hardly ever go out to eat. Instead, we get into debates over who makes the best risotto. For the NCAA tournament, we fill out brackets, and whoever wins, I cook the dinner of their choice. This year, Betsy won, and she wanted steak risotto and stuffed artichokes.

Tell me about Sycamore Hills. It’s a fantastic Jack Nicklaus Signature design, built in 1987-1988. It sits on 240 acres; 180 acres are irrigated, and there are no native areas — everything is maintained. Only two holes don’t have water; there’s a river, plus ponds or creeks on every other hole.

How did you get into the business? I started working on a golf course at age 16, then all through high school. My freshman year of college, I had the come-to-Jesus talk with Dad. I was a political science major, and he asked me, “Do you really see yourself in a suit and tie?” I said no, and he told me to go get my degree in turf. My dad is an avid golfer. He’s pretty proud of me.

Fill in the blank: I tell young people that ______ is the key to success. Listening. Kids need to put their phones down and listen, and they need to ask questions. A kid is nodding his head at you, (and) it turns out he’s paying more attention to who is texting him. You tell him to go out to No. 7, then you see him on No. 17.

What is an underrated benefit to having your job? I’d say seeing the wildlife. We’re in the middle of a neighborhood, and we’ve got five foxes living under our maintenance shed. I saw a bald eagle the other day. You can’t explain that to members. I put that in our newsletter, and someone said, “I haven’t seen the bald eagle yet!” Well, it’s not like you can summon it, “C’mere eagle!” You have to be here. The other day, one of those foxes looked right at me — it was just me and him, right in the middle of a fairway.

As interviewed by Seth Jones, April 18, 2019.

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1 Comment on "19th Hole: John Thompson"

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  1. Marcie Gordon says:

    Wow! JOHN THOMPSON! Very Impressive! I enjoyed your responses-insightful and heartfelt! No wonder you do such a great job on that Sycamore Hills Golf Club! It’s maintained beautifully! Good Luck this year-wishing you good weather and Happy Golfers!

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