Justin Thomas plays final round of Waste Management Phoenix Open after learning of his grandfather’s death


Sunday, February 7, 2021  shortly before he was to play in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Justin Thomas learned that his paternal grandfather, Paul Thomas, age 89, had passed away earlier that morning. Although he did not win, Justin went on to fulfill his obligation and played in the tournament with such news weighing heavy on his mind.

Justin Thomas didn’t leave TPC Scottsdale on Sunday with a victory. His closing 1-over 72 left him six back of Phoenix Open winner Brooks Koepka.  But it didn’t matter; Thomas’ mind and heart were elsewhere.  Thomas started the day at TPC Scottsdale at 14 under in a tie for fifth. His round got off to a slow start with pars on the first five holes before a costly double-bogey 6 on the sixth made a comeback all but impossible. It wasn’t an entirely lost day, Thomas making this impressive putt for eagle on the 17th hole. He would finish the round shooting a one-over 72 to come in T-13, six back of Koepka.  After making par on the par-4 18th, a hole after he drained a 50-footer for eagle, Mike Thomas put his arm around his son as they walked to scoring.

A day later Justin found some words, posting a small yet heartfelt tribute to his late grandfather on Instagram.

 “Heaven got a good one yesterday. Wish you were still here to tell me how many putts I missed on days like yesterday! Nobody’s voice would make me happier when I would hear it over the phone. Will love and miss you, G Pa. ❤️”

Paul Thomas left school at age 17 to become a golf professional after being a caddy in his youth in Cincinnati. He

tried to play on the PGA Tour in the mid-1950s but didn’t have much success, so he moved back to Cincinnati to work as a club professional. He would take over the head professional post at Zanesville Country Club, about 50 miles east of Columbus, in 1963 and would work there for 26 years.

Paul, who twice played in the PGA Championship (1960 and 1961) and also competed in the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont, would pass his love of the game down to his son, Mike Thomas, Justin’s father, who also became a club professional in Kentucky. That passion then reached Justin as well.

Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski spoke with Paul, who went by the nickname PT, after Justin’s PGA Championship victory in 2017, offering recollections of his grandson from his junior days. PT fondly remembered a young Justin playing the short course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “The holes were no more than 50-90 yards, and he would just go around and around trying to make a hole-in-one,” he said. “He was all about making a hole-in-one. He’d hit the tee shot, and if it didn’t go in, he’d pick up and go the next hole. But I think he aced every hole at some point.”

Paul Thomas passed his passion for golf down to his son, Mike, and his grandson, 13-time PGA Tour winner Justin.

PT stayed out of the way of Mike serving as Justin’s instructor as he developed into a PGA Tour star, but he did offer his own wisdom from time to time.

“I just talked to him about the game, about the old timers who played, how they did things,” PT said. “The one thing I tried to instill in him was confidence, telling him he could be a good player. I’d tell him, ‘The only guy who can screw this up is you.’ I think we know now that he’s done all right.”
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