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Thompson gears up for pro career

By Doug Gorman

It couldn't have been scripted any better. Allen Thompson addresses the ball, which is sitting just off the fringe at the ninth green of Lake Spivey Golf Club; slowly he brings the club forward and sends the ball towards its intended destination.

In a flash, the ball picks up speed and then quickly disappears from sight as it vanishes into the hole.

The average duffer would spend the rest of the round bragging about the shot.

For Thompson it's no big deal. He simply collects the ball and goes about his business. On this particular day that means trying to please a photographer who has come to Lake Spivey Golf Club for a photo shoot.

Even though Thompson's clutch shot wasn't part of a normal round of golf, it was hardly a fluke.

Thompson has been turning heads with his ability to play the game since his days as a junior champion.

The only territory now left to conquer for the Georgia State student is the professional ranks.

That venture starts next month.

Thompson didn't begin playing serious golf until he was 13, but in a short period of time, he turned into one of the best junior players in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast.

By the time he was through with his high school career, Eagle's Landing had won two state titles and Thompson captured the individual state crown in 1998.

That eventual led to a scholarship offer to Georgia State where more championships came Thompson's way.

"It was a lot of fun," Thompson said. "It was really everything I expected. It gave me some great tournament experience."

During his college career Thompson set a school record by winning three tournaments.

In 2001, his success on the golf course led to Atlantic Sun Player of the Year honors. It put him in some esteemed company since PGA members Collin Montgomerie and Hal Sutton also won the honors during their college career.

As good as Thompson was during his high school career, playing four years at a major college program has made him even better.

"You can't compare playing in high school to playing in college," he said. "It's a lot more competitive in college. In high school, you might have played one team a year that was equal to you. In college everybody is good."

Before Thompson gets his chance to challenge Tiger Woods for a green jacket at the Masters, his professional dreams start a little smaller.

The soon-to-be Georgia State graduate will begin paying his dues next month on the Gateway Tour, which is based out of Mrytle Beach, S.C.

The Gateway mini-tour has the backing of PGA professionals Phil Mickelson and Tom Lehman, who both sit on the board.

Thompson is hoping it's the training ground he needs to eventual prepare him for the PGA qualifying school in the fall. Success at "Q-school" as would-be pros like to call it could mean an invitation to play as a member of the PGA next year.

Thompson has plenty of supporters in his corner.

Tony Caporale is a former mini-tour player, who now focuses his attention on teaching intermediate and advanced players.

He sees something special in the former prep and collegiate champion.

Caporale also knows from first-hand experience that in addition to ability, it also takes money to first make it in pro golf.

"It can be pretty expensive out there," he said. "Just because you are making birdies out there on some of the mini tours, doesn't mean you are making a whole lot of money."

Sponsorship becomes very important for a golf professional who is just starting out.

Local golf supporters can help invest in Thompson's career and take part in a golfing outing at Rivers Edge Country Club on April 28th.

The tournament costs $60 and will be a shotgun start. Play will get underway at 1 p.m. For more information call 678-358-1711.

Players can also sign up at Lake Spivey or Rivers Edge. More information about Thompson's golfing history can be obtained by logging on to allenthompson.net.

There will also be a silent auction during the event, included among the items up for bid is an autographed jersey of Atlanta Thrasher's llya Kovalchuck.

"Allen is ready to take the next step," said Caporale. "He just needs a little help and support to get started."

Matt Uhl, who is the head professional at both Lake Spivey and Rivers Edge, looks forward to watching Thompson's pro career get off the ground.

"He has practically grown up here," said Uhl. "There are a lot of older golfers who dreamed of getting out there and playing on the tour. They sort of have a chance to live their dream through Allen."

The first event on the Gateway tour is set for May 27. The season concludes with the tour championship Sept 22-25.

In October, Thompson will take his first shot at the PGA qualifying school.

"Playing the Gateway tour should have me ready for Q-school," he said. "That's certainly my goal."