LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The last question was an easy one for Mike Thomas. He and his son Justin were talking with a group of some of the country's top junior golfers and their parents on the eve of the fourth-annual AJGA Justin Thomas Junior Championship at Harmony Landing Country Club in Goshen on Thursday.
Mike was asked for his advice to parents and coaches of these young, talented golfers. The answer was simple:
Keep it fun.
Mike was once a talented young golfer as well, also learning from a club pro father. That father, Paul Thomas, was on hand Thursday with his wife Phyllis, visiting from Columbus. They are their grandson's biggest fans and pointed out what a great job Mike and his wife Jani did in raising such a wonderful son. Paul said he didn't do as well on the golf side with Mike.
"Mike was a real good player," Paul Thomas said. "He shot 65 at our course when he was about 15. But I was too hard on Mike. I didn't handle him the way he handled Justin. And I tell parents today if they have a young kid, don't push them. Make them like the game first."
"It had a huge impact," Mike Thomas said. "For some reason, I went the other way. I just said, 'You know what, I didn't enjoy that very much. I'm gonna make sure that my son doesn't feel what I was feeling.'
"He didn't know better at the time," Mike said his father. "He had a much harder upbringing than I did, and so I was very fortunate that I was able to learn from that. That's why to this day, Justin is my best friend. He's not my son. He's my best friend."
Mike is also still Justin's coach. Now the pro emeritus at Harmony Landing, Mike travels to about three-quarters of the PGA Tournaments in which Justin competes.
"We do a great job of separating the father-son and the player-student relationship," Justin Thomas said. "When we're out there, it's all business, and we take it very seriously. But we have times we can be father-son as well. We're very, very close, and we definitely enjoy our time together."
It has worked amazingly well. Still just 25 years old, the St. Xavier High School graduate already has nine PGA Tour victories, was the 2017 Player of the Year and is currently ranked fifth in the world.
For Mike, it's never been about the scores or the wins. It's been about his son doing something he loves and being a good person. Mike said he'll be borrowing from a line he heard recently:
"I'm proud of your accomplishments, but I'm even more impressed with your willingness to give back," he said.
And Justin has learned well from his parents. He's been giving back to a number of causes for years and just had the official launch of the Justin Thomas Foundation on Wednesday. Mike believes that could leads to really big things down the road.
"Hopefully, we can get the ball rolling, and he can continue to play well enough to draw the sponsorship dollars in here and do some things like build a school," Mike Thomas said. "We hope to do some things that are really going to impact people in the community."
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