All that time spent on the driving range bashing balls and fine-tuning every aspect of his game has paid off for local golfer Bryon Thom.
Thom, a former member of the junior program at the Squamish Valley Golf and Country Club who is now attending Arkansas Tech University, posted some solid numbers to help his team capture its first-ever Gulf South Conference golf championship.
Thom lit it up during the first round, closing with a 68 to help his Wonder Boys team to an early lead. He followed the impressive first round with a 73 in the second round. Although Thom struggled in the final round to shoot 79, the Wonder Boys still managed to hold off a furious final-day charge by No. 18 Delta State to claim the title.
"I was pretty happy," said Thom during a telephone interview. "I didn't play well the last day but we won by one. My teammates played well enough to hold on."
Thanks to Thom's solid showing (he finished 13th overall), the Wonder Boys became the first league member from the State of Arkansas to win the men's conference golf championship, and Thom earned all-Gulf South Conference honours.
Thom, originally from Williams Lake, won the B.C. Junior Masters in Duncan at the age of 18 and was a two-time junior club champion at Squamish Valley.
He is presently studying Business Administration at the University, and will be returning to Squamish soon to work on the grounds crew at Squamish Valley and to continue his life-long pursuit of mastering the game.
"I've gained a lot of experience playing in tournaments against good players and it's really helped me improve."
Thom and his teammates practice every day, hitting balls on the range, practicing their short games and receiving daily instruction from their golf coaches.
"I struggled off the start but I'm starting to play good again," he said. "It's fun being down here - it's different than at home but I'm adjusting."
Thom's journey into the world of collegiate golf wasn't easy. There are thousands of talented players across North America who compete for a select number of highly-coveted spots on college golf squads.
"We flooded the market with letters to schools with golf programs," said his mother Sherry Thom, who also works at Squamish golf and Country Club. "Luckily, Bryon's best friend Scott Sellers was already in school at Arkansas State and he talked to the coach."
Sellers told the coach that Thom was a great player, that they played golf every day together and were best friends. The coach liked what he heard, contacted the Thoms and the rest is history.
"The school has been very good to the kids," said Mrs. Thom. "I felt good about leaving him there - I think he's having a great time."
If he and his teammates continue to play well at next week's regional championship, they have a chance to compete in the Division II NCAA National Championship.