CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) – Justin Thomas was seven-years-old when he attended the 2000 PGA Championship in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Watching Tiger Woods win, Thomas was hooked.
“That’s the first memory of me in terms of being live and being at a golf tournament,” he said after being crowned winner of the same championship 17 years later on Sunday.
“I wanted to play professional golf. Any kid, no matter whatever they are doing, they think they are going to be the best at it and they want to be the best.
“Being at the PGA that week, and hearing the roars and what Tiger was producing out there, I mean that week was the reason that I decided this is really what I want to do.”
Thomas was in the clubhouse when Woods made a crucial putt at the 72nd hole to force a playoff.
“Woods hit the putt on camera and before it can fall in on TV I can just hear the roar outside. I’ll never forget that.
“It’s crazy to be sitting up here now after watching him do his champion’s toast and hoping that I’m there one day – and I am.”
Thomas said his parents did not push him to play golf, but he always loved it and never seriously considered pursuing another sport.
“I was lucky to have supportive parents,” he said. “It was set up for golf to be in my bones. They are the reason I’m sitting up here right now.”
Thomas, one of the longest hitters on tour, has a powerful swing and a deft short-game touch.
He started this season with a bang, winning three times early and looked set to make a challenge in the majors.
After finished tied for 22nd at the Masters, fading in the final round at the US Open to tie for ninth and missing the cut at the British Open, Thomas finally made the major breakthrough on Sunday.
It does not seem so long ago that he was playing for a dollar against his father.
“I was at a young age but I wanted to beat him and he wanted to beat me,” Thomas said.
“It was pretty heated out there. I’m a pretty sore loser and did not handle it well when I lost and had to give up a dollar. “It probably came from my dad’s pocket anyway.”