Not much has changed through the years regarding how much time and effort Bobby Thomas puts into his golf game.
When Thomas inked a National Letter of Intent on Friday to attend Morehead State University, he became the first Division I signee for eighth-year Russell coach Perry Yates.
“It's definitely a reward of work,” Yates said told a crowd assembled in the Russell library. “I've been around Bobby for seven years. Everything he's gotten he has earned.”
Yates recalled Thomas first joining the high school team as a sixth-grader.
“He never left the golf course back then either,” Yates recalled matter-of-factly. “Bobby would be playing in games with the older guys. I've been blessed with some really good athletes. A lof of them played other sports. Bobby's a golfer, that's all he does.”
Thomas grew up around River Bend Golf Course. Dagan Abdon, who went on to star at Greenup County and earned a scholarship to Western Kentucky, was a few years older than Thomas and one of his biggest golf influences.
“Dagan would be out there and we practiced together a lot,” Thomas said.
All the practice time served Thomas well as he became a three-time All-Area golfer for the Red Devils.
Thomas was regional tournament runner-up as a sophomore and junior, shooting 73 and 71 and both times finishing one shot behind the winner.
“Playing in the State Tournament twice, those were special experiences,” he said. “I thought I would go my senior year, too, but I lost in a playoff.”
Yates said one of Thomas' strengths as a golfer is his temperament.
“He doesn't lose control if he hits a bad shot,” the coach said. “He doesn't get too high, and he doesn't get too low.”
During the course of his high school career, Thomas won medalist honors in six tournaments, including an Eastern Kentucky Conference title.
All the while, Thomas held firm to his ambition.
“I always wanted to play Division I college golf,” he said. “That was always my goal.”
Thomas, who maintains a 3.4 grade point average and scored 25 on the ACT, is no stranger to Eagle Trace Golf Course outside Morehead. Now he can call it his new home course after signing to play for coach Rex Chaney's Eagles.
Thomas counts it nothing less than a privilege.
“It's unexplainable how happy I am to have an opportunity to do this,” said Thomas, who wore a Morehead State T-shirt for the signing. “Not everybody has this opportunity. I feel like I worked so hard to get to this point.”
Several friends and family members turned out to share the special moment with Thomas. Yates patted him on the shoulder more than once.
“It's really hard on me to see him go,” Yates said. “You form a bond, especially when you've been around them that long.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.