Michele Thomson will be back on the Ladies European Tour next year after rediscovering her love for golf.
THE path from promising young athlete to established senior is rarely smooth; just ask Michele Thomson.
As a teenager, the Aberdonian was one of Scotland’s most promising amateur golfers – she was Scottish Amateur Champion and a Curtis Cup player in 2008 and much was expected after she turned professional following those successes.
However, the transition from amateur to professional was not plain sailing for Thomson and the following year, she announced that she was quitting the sport that she had played for most of her life.
“I thought that everything was going to be easy,” she says. “When you’re younger, you think that if you just keep doing what you’re doing then you’ll get where you want to be.
“But when I turned pro, it wasn’t everything that I expected it to be. It was quite lonely, I was living out of a suitcase and I didn’t have the monthly wage that I’d been used to so it was tough.”
Thomson’s decision came as a shock to everyone, particularly considering that results-wise, she wasn’t struggling on the Ladies European Tour. But she was sure that stepping away was the correct course of action for her because she had reached a point where being a golfer was just not enjoyable any longer.
In fact, she didn’t just step away from the tour, she stepped away from the sport entirely.
“I didn’t even pick up a golf club,” she says. “Thinking about it now, it was pretty drastic but I think it had got to the stage that I had burnt out. It was a decision I didn’t want to make but I knew I had to make because I wasn’t fully committed.
“I look back now and I think that was definitely the right decision for me at the time.”
In the aftermath of her retirement from golf, Thomson joined the police force.
However, slowly but surely, her desire to play the sport she first took up at the age of 11 returned.
“One day, I was watching golf on the television and I thought – that’s what I want to do,” she remembers.
“I was thinking that I was as good as these girls and I still had the belief that I could be successful.
“It had always been my dream job to be a professional golfer and being in the police made me mature and realise that life’s too short and so if you want to do something then go and do it. And so that helped me make the decision to come back.”
Thomson’s return to professional golf in 2014 was not immediately fruitful but she was undeterred and in fact, her lack of success only increased her motivation. That determination paid off; this year, Thomson finished fourth on the Access Series meaning that she has secured a full card for next year’s Ladies European Tour.
It is a remarkable achievement and the 28-year-old admits that she had a mixture of emotions on realising that the hard work of her comeback had been rewarded.
“It felt unbelievable to get my card,” she says.
“It’s been a very long road and as with every athlete, there’s ups and downs. And so for me, this has felt like it’s been a long time coming.
“When I realised I’d secured my card, it was a mixture of happiness and relief and so now, I just can’t wait to get going.”
Thomson will travel to Australia in January for some tune-up tournaments before the action on the Ladies European Tour begins in March. She is not unduly nervous since the Tour is not entirely uncharted waters for her but she is, she admits, a very different person to that fledging player who made her professional debut over seven years ago.
“One of the main differences is that I’m a lot more mature now,” she says. “I’m able to deal with pressure much better nowadays – if I hit a bad shot, I don’t think that it’s the end of the world, I just move on.
“When you’re young, it’s easy to over-react about things but these days, I’m much better at putting things in perspective.”
Thomson admits that her three-year hiatus from the game occasionally leaves her feeling like she’s playing catch-up with her peers.
But on balance, Thomson remains certain that her break did her the world of good and so she goes into the 2017 season with the mindset that she needs to succeed. And the benefit of her new-found maturity ensures that she will not be putting undue pressure on herself.
“I’m not looking any further than next year,” she says. “Obviously I want to keep my card but mainly, I just want to prepare the best I can for each tournament and go out to try and win every one.
“Obviously I won’t win every tournament but if I go in with that mentality then I’ve got a good chance of doing well. I just want to enjoy it because it’s going to be amazing.”