Tide Golfer Makes Amateur Finals

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – Alabama golfer Michael Thompson has won his way into the championship final at the 107th U.S. Amateur.

He is the second University of Alabama golfer to advance to the championship final. Jerry Pate won the 1974 U.S. Amateur as a Crimson Tide golfer going into his senior season at Alabama. He defeated John Grace 2 and 1 in the final at Ridgewood (N.J.) Country Club. It had been the first time Pate, then 20, had ever even qualified for the U.S. Amateur.

Thompson goes to practice each day at the Jerry Pate Golf Center, the golf team's home course at Ol' Colony Club in Tuscaloosa. In the main room of the Jerry Pate Golf Center is a trophy case that Thompson passes each time he enters the building. Inside the trophy case is a replica of Pate's 1974 U.S. Amateur trophy and a photo of Pate hoisting the trophy following his win.

"I've thought about it a little, his copy of the trophy in the glass case at the Pate Center," said Thompson, by phone late Saturday afternoon. "I've thought about what it would be like if I added another one next to it. That would be very exciting."

The Crimson Tide senior golfer will play 2007 U.S. Pub Links champion and 2007 Walker Cup team member Colt Knost Sunday for the championship. Knost just finished his senior season at SMU. Like Thompson, this is his third U.S. Amateur appearance but the first time Knost has made the cut to match play. He qualified in 2005 and 2006. Thompson lost in the first round of match play in 2004 and missed the cut in 2006. Both were collegiate All-Americans this past season. They have never met one another in match play. However Thompson says they have played together.

Thompson was an all-conference golfer and four-time tournament champion as a golfer at Tulane his freshman and sophomore seasons in 2004 and 2005, but he and the golf program fell victim to Hurricane Katrina. Because of the excessive damage to the City of New Orleans, Tulane sent its golf team to SMU's campus to headquarter before it disbanded the program in the hurricane's wake. (Thompson transferred to Alabama last fall).

"I don't know him very well," said Thompson. "I met him maybe once or twice at SMU. This is the first time we've played each other in match play. I've played with him at the Northeast Am and the Western Am, so I've played in the same group with him before."

The pair will play 36 holes on Sunday beginning at 7 a.m. PDT/9 a.m. CST at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. Golf fans can keep up with the live scoring on the internet at the USGA's official site for the tournament, www.usamateur.org. NBC will televise live play from 3-5 p.m. CT.

Thompson said he planned to have a quiet dinner at the home of his host family on Saturday night and planned to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. to ready for his big day on Sunday.

"Right now the trophy is on my mind. I'm thinking about it and thinking about what it would mean to win, trying to picture myself holding the trophy up, just trying to get myself fired up to go out tomorrow and play hard because I'm tired and a little worn out from this whole week. But I want to go out and definitely try to win it," said Thompson."I'm going to probably be in bed by 9:30. I have to get up at probably 4:45, so it's going to be a long day. The house that I'm staying at, they're making dinner for me tonight, so it should be a relaxing evening and fun. I'll try not to think about it tonight and just relax and wake up hopefully refreshed."

With his semifinal win, Thompson has now earned a berth into the 2008 U.S. Open and possibly an invitation into the 2008 Masters Tournament if he is still an amateur then.

Thompson, 22, defeated Lamar senior Casey Clendenon 3 and 2 in the semifinals on Saturday to advance. Knost defearted Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas 4 and 3 in his semifinal match. Thompson, a Tucson native, never trailed in the match against Clendenon, 23, leading at 1-up from the No. 1 tee after he birdied the first hole at the Lakeside Course, a par 70 with a 6,948 yards layout. Thompson never trailed. He was 4-up after 12 holes, his largest lead in the match. The match ended after 16 holes with Thompson claiming the 3 and 2 win.

"It was actually a conceded birdie (on the first hole). It was about 12 feet, but from then on, I really didn't let up," said Thompson of his round.

Saturday's semifinal round found Thompson facing a great deal: a win not only sent him to into the championship round but would also bring the invites into two of golf's greatest events, the U.S. Open and the Masters. Still, Thompson says, he did not feel much pressure.

"No, not really. A little bit more nervous because of the big crowds. Other than that, I didn't have any pressure to go out and win because it gets me into the Masters or the U.S. Open," said Thompson. "I wasn't thinking about any of that, so I was very calm and very composed today."

It was a composure noted by his opponent, Clendenon.

"He came out playing solid and he aimed for center of greens and hit a lot of fairways," Clendenon said of Thompson to the Associated Press. "I couldn't get it going. He played better today, so he deserves it. I had a couple of opportunities to get back in the match, but unfortunately I didn't and I didn't take charge of them."

Regardless of whether or not he wins the U.S. Amateur championship Sunday, Thompson says this whole experience has already been most memorable, particularly life in the spotlight. When asked, if it all ended now on Saturday evening what his favorite part of this week would be, he answered, "Probably all of the interviews and meeting and being interview by people like Jimmy Roberts and Dottie Pepper and all those really famous people you see on The Golf Channel and NBC all the time. Just being with them and hearing what everybody has to say about me. It's just nice to hear what other people think about my game. It's been nice."


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