As Justin Thomas attempts to make up a four-shot deficit on co-leaders Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele in the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he’ll do so with mixed emotions. Golf Channel reported during the early part of its Sunday broadcast that Thomas’ paternal grandfather, Paul Thomas, has died. The PGA Tour from its Twitter handle also reported the sad news, stating that Paul passed away on Saturday.
Paul Thomas left school at age 17 to become a golf professional after caddieing in his youth in Cincinnati. He tried to play on the PGA Tour in the mid-1950s but didn’t have much success so he moved back to Cincinnati to work as a club professional. He would take over the head professional post at Zanesville Country Club, about 50 miles east of Columbus, in 1963 and would work there for 26 years.
Paul, who twice played in the PGA Championship (1960 and 1961) and also competed in the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont, would pass his love of the game down to his son, Mike Thomas, Justin’s father, who also became a club professional in Kentucky. That passion then reached Justin as well.
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski spoke with Paul, who went by the nickname PT, after Justin’s PGA Championship victory in 2017, offering recollections of his grandson from his junior days. PT fondly remembered a young Justin playing the short course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “The holes were no more than 50-90 yards, and he would just go around and around trying to make a hole-in-one,” he said. “He was all about making a hole-in-one. He’d hit the tee shot, and if it didn’t go in, he’d pick up and go the next hole. But I think he aced every hole at some point.”
PT stayed out of the way of Mike serving as Justin’s instructor as he developed into a PGA Tour star, but he did offer his own wisdom from time to time.
“I just talked to him about the game, about the old timers who played, how they did things,” PT said. “The one thing I tried to instill in him was confidence, telling him he could be a good player. I’d tell him, ‘The only guy who can screw this up is you.’ I think we know now that he’s done all right.”
Thomas started the day at TPC Scottsdale at 14 under in a tie for fifth.