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May 25, 2011

Robert Thompson


KELLY ELBIN: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 72nd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid at Valhalla Golf Club. PGA club professional Robert Thompson joining us this morning. Robert won the 2010 Senior PGA National Championship and is a PGA teaching professional at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas. Robert, welcome back to Valhalla where you played in the 2002 PGA Professional National Championship. Some comments on the golf course and also representing the PGA club professionals this week.
ROBERT THOMPSON: Well thank you. It's a pleasure being here. Also I'm just thrilled to be here representing the PGA and the many professionals around the country as well as all the other contestants here. I know we're all hoping to make a good showing here.
It's nice to be back in Valhalla. I was here for the 2002 Club Pro and the course has really changed and matured. It's certainly playing a lot longer than what I remember being near 2002. I think that with the addition of the new tees and some of the new green sites it's playing definitely a lot harder and much more challenging.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. For the record Robert was 18th, finished 18th in the 2002 PGA Professional National Championship. Also you played a couple of events on the Champions Tour this year. You have a tie for fifth at the Toshiba Classic. How is your game shaping upright now coming in this week?
ROBERT THOMPSON: Well, the last tournament I played in was in Mississippi. Other than that I played a few local events back home, so it's still kind of a mystery to me.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions.

Q. This is your fourth time in the Senior PGA. Do you have anymore confidence coming in as the Senior Professional National Championship?
ROBERT THOMPSON: Well, I don't know. My record so far in the Senior PGA's haven't been really great. I played mediocre at Rochester and that was my first one. And since then I haven't done that well.
But I know I've got to drive the ball a lot better than I previously have in Senior PGAs and that's the first step in playing this golf course obviously is getting it in play off the tee because the rough is very deep here this week.
KELLY ELBIN: Robert's best finish is a tie for 59th at the 2008 Senior PGA Championship.

Q. You played in this event before, you played Champions Tour events, you played in PGA TOUR events, what are your expectations this week? Some guys might come here thinking just to make the cut. What are your expectations?
ROBERT THOMPSON: Well, that's a good question. I've been asked that this week and I'm not really sure because it's been awhile since I played in a competitive event, since Mississippi, so I don't have anything leading up to it to really gauge how I'm playing.
So I'm hoping that I guess my first step would be to go out and play two good solid rounds and make the cut and then hopefully build off that.

Q. I saw in your profile that your wife is caddying for you a lot. Is that going to be the case this week and also what has that dynamic been like for you? It's a unique relationship I'm sure on and off the course.
ROBERT THOMPSON: My wife has got a background in coaching tennis. She coached tennis, so she's been around competitiveness, so she knows what it's like to be -- we have been married for 30 years, so we, she's been around golf and she understands it.
We have teamed really well when she's caddied for me.

Q. Certainly the 18th hole is one that can be good and bad to people in this championship and you remember well back in 2002 when you played in it. Could you sort of speak about what the nuances of what you have to do when you go to 18?
ROBERT THOMPSON: Well, you can be a hero on that hole. I remember making an eagle on that hole in the club pro in 2002. And then also I remember having a little bit of a higher score there also.
So it really, it's a risk/reward hole when you're going for it in two. Which most people are probably going to be doing that. But you can get it in a very awkward position there if you don't get your second shot where you're hoping to with the bunkering and around the green and the hills in the back.
KELLY ELBIN: You're one of only two players to win a PGA Assistant Championship and the Senior Professional National Championship. What did that victory last year in southern California mean to you in terms of accepting and understanding that you could play at a higher level and compete out here with the guys you played against for a long time.
ROBERT THOMPSON: Obviously any time you win a national championship that's a big confidence booster. That was big for me. It had been a long time since I won the assistant's to winning the Senior Club Pro. So that's always a good feeling.

Q. Can you talk about the field in terms of competition this week?
ROBERT THOMPSON: Well obviously you got the best players in the country here from the Champions Tour and these guys can still play. They work hard at their games and they work hard stage in shape and they're very competitive. They can still put the numbers on the board.

Q. One thing about the Champions Tour is you have seen probably years and years in this event a lot of people have had to bow out because of injury and you and your wife have maintained fitness and can you sort of speak about what it takes to deal with this once you reach that magic age of 50 and older?
ROBERT THOMPSON: Well I've dealt with some injuries myself. I try to keep myself in shape to avoid injuries and I know last year the first part of the year last year I had troubles with my shoulder and had tendonitis in my elbow and it kind of shut me down for at least two months, just that was the only way I could get it better was through rest. And so I know that a lot of the players out here deal with the same thing but they just overtime your parts just wear out. Whether it be shoulders or elbows, those are pretty common injuries out here. And I know that all the guys, their hips, we have just tons of players that have surgeries here. We try to avoid it as much as you can by working out and stage strong, but it's just from using those joints all the time it's going to happen.
KELLY ELBIN: Talk just for a second about your teaching responsibilities at Whispering Pines. How much lessons you give and the joy that I'm sure that you derive out of teaching the game as well as playing it at a high level.
ROBERT THOMPSON: Well I run a couple of programs at Whispering Pines. One of them is a First Tee program and we have a camp next door and so we do 10 weeks of First Tee in the spring and 10 weeks in the fall. It kind of falls with the school year. And then during the summer we have 10 weeks of golf camps, junior golf camps associated with the camp that's next to the golf course. So that takes up a lot of my time.

Q. I had to ask you about the qualifying tournament. You've had some pretty good tours of the qualifying tournaments. It's quite a grind for any player. Can you compare that grind and then the pressure coming into a Major Championship. Do they match up or is it totally different for you?
ROBERT THOMPSON: You know what, I think that the qualifying schools are more of a do or die. So maybe I need a little bit more focus like it is a qualifying school at the Senior PGA. Because you're just, you're in that mode that every shot in qualifying school is important, as it is, and so your focus might even be more at the qualifying school. It's a tough route, you're pretty much worn out mentally at the end of the week at the qualifying school.
KELLY ELBIN: Robert Thompson, thank you very much, good luck this week.

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