Justin Thomas knew what he wanted to do.
But it never hurts to get a bit of encouragement from a 19-year-old PGA Tour winner.
“You are ready. You will do fine out here,” Jordan Spieth, the youngest winner on Tour since 1931, told his long-time buddy Thomas.
Only months removed from leading Alabama to a national title as a sophomore All-American, Thomas will turn pro after the Walker Cup in early September. (Read about his selection here.)
“I was definitely leaning toward this,” said Thomas, the 2012 Jack Nicklaus and Haskins awards winner. “I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do. I just didn’t want it publicly out there. The last few weeks, I had some big tournaments. Big events for me. I didn’t want any distractions.
“But I knew it was right. I am very, very excited.”
Thomas, 20, of Goshen, Ky., has played four tournaments on the PGA Tour, making the cut three times – including at the Travelers Championship earlier this year, where he finished T-30. He also made the cut at the 2009 Wyndham Championship at age 16 – the fifth-youngest player to ever play a weekend on Tour.
Thomas will await potential sponsor exemptions in the fall. The PGA Tour’s 2014 wraparound season starts in October. He might seek a couple of tournaments in Europe as a warmup for Web.com Q-School later this year.
“I am hoping for a couple of spots (on the PGA Tour) in the fall, but it’s hard for those tournaments because so many guys are looking to get in,” Thomas said.
Thomas says he hasn’t eliminated the thought of going the Challenge Tour route, following in the footsteps of former collegiate All-Americans Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka, who have graduated to the European Tour.
“My main focus is Web.com Q-School, play a full schedule on that tour in 2014 and earn my Tour card for 2015,” said Thomas, who will finish his amateur career by playing in the Western Amateur, U.S. Amateur and Walker Cup.
“(My family and I) have talked about going to Europe. I’m not very accustomed to it. It could be really good for me to get exposure and see the world. But, at the same time, my goal is to play the PGA Tour, and the Web.com is the fastest way to get there.
“That’s my focus.”
Teammate Cory Whitsett said that Thomas stepped up his game during the Crimson Tide’s title season – and clearly will be missed.
“He got a lot better this year – especially his short game, putting particularly,” Whitsett said. “We are excited for him. He obviously thinks his game is ready, and it is.
“It will be a different dynamic, a different Alabama team. We’ll have three seniors, a sophomore and the rest freshmen. That’ll mean that Bobby (Wyatt), Trey (Mullinax) and I will have to provide more senior leadership this season.”
Coach Jay Seawell posted on his Twitter account, @jcwellbamagolf: “@JustinThomas34 thank you for your dedication and commitment to our team. You are a champion on and off the course #rolltide”
Thomas won six times during two seasons with the Crimson Tide, leading the team to a runner-up finish at the NCAAs in 2012 and the school’s first team title in 2013.
Leaving behind his teammates and Seawell definitely weighed on Thomas.
“This was extremely difficult. People don’t understand how hard that part (leaving Alabama) was,” said Thomas, No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “Coach has brought in guys like Michael Thompson, Bud Cauley, Hunter Hamrick. We’ve all done our best to build some sort of dynasty.
“We had so much camaraderie, so much fun every day. It’s hard to explain. It’s something you need to experience to understand. I have been very fortunate to get that experience.”