Former KU golfer Chris Thompson qualifies PGA Tour event for first time

Former Kansas University golfer Chris Thompson recently had a chance to chip in for a 59 at Lawrence Country Club. His shot barely missed and two putts later he settled for tying his course record of 61.

A 59 would have been quite a thrill, but he accomplished something far more meaningful Tuesday when he qualified for a PGA tour event for the first time.

Thompson completed his round of 69 and birdied the third playoff hole at The Lakes at Castle Hills to become one of four “Monday qualifiers” for the Byron Nelson Championship to be played Thursday through Sunday at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas. Play was suspended at 2:50 p.m. Monday because of bad weather and resumed Tuesday at 8 a.m.

Will Strickler of Dallas led the four qualifiers with a four-under 68 on the 7,356-yard, par-72 course. Thompson and three others shot a 69 and had a playoff for the final three spots. Thompson was the second of three golfers to earn a spot. He did so by carding a birdie on the third playoff hole, after consecutive pars.

Eighty-five golfers made it to the Monday qualifier to compete for the four spots. Thompson is one of two KU alumni and Lawrence Country Club members in the Byron Nelson field. Gary Woodland ranks 19th on the PGA Tour money list with $1,821,386 in earnings this season.

A two-time All-American (1998, 1999) at KU, Thompson has earned a living playing in mini-tour events and in 2007 qualified for the Nationwide Tour, the next step below the PGA Tour and now known as the Web.com Tour. He shot an opening-round 60 in one event but didn’t make enough money to stay on the tour the following season.

“Dog-gone it, that’s great,” Thompson’s college coach, Ross Randall, said early Monday afternoon when he learned the qualifying news. “He’s been so close the last four or five years, just a heartbreak away, just a lipped-out putt from qualifying.”

Known for his accuracy off the tee and reliable short game, Thompson, 37, has been receiving instruction the past few years from Greg LaBelle of the Butch Harmon School of Golf in Las Vegas.

“I hope he plays well,” Randall said. “Actually, I just hope he plays like he can play and the rest will take care of itself.”

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