Thompsons reveal family secret

By Randall MellJanuary 14, 2012, 2:00 pm

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – Love finds a way.

Through hardship, through heartache, through the most traumatic loss a family can endure, love finds a way.

That’s the message that comes through the delicate family secret the Thompsons have decided to reveal for the first time publicly in this story.

Photos courtesy of the Thompson family

Top left: Lexi Thompson, Curtis Thompson, Nicholas
Thompson; Bottom left: Curt and Judy Thompson as
newlyweds; Middle: The Thompson siblings; Top right: Judy
and Curt Thompson on their wedding day, March 8, 1980;
Bottom right: Scott and Judy Thompson as newlyweds.

With Nicholas, 29, having already broken through to the PGA Tour, with Lexi, 16, swiftly becoming an international star, with Curtis, 19, an LSU freshman having won the Dixie Amateur just three weeks ago, you know the Thompsons as an emerging golf family phenomenon. Really, the game has never seen anything like them, anything like the potential they have to make meaningful marks on both the PGA Tour and LPGA.

You may think you know their remarkable story, but you don’t really, not unless you’re within their tight circle of family and friends.

You may see this family’s strong bond. You may have even seen it at Heron Bay and the Dixie Amateur last month, when Curtis won just a couple miles from their Coral Springs, Fla., home. You may have seen it in how Scott and Judy Thompson, the parents, watched every shot Curtis struck with Nicholas, Lexi, Grandma Mimi and Uncle Jimmy at their side. Every single shot. You may have seen them all together watching Nicholas play The Honda Classic at PGA National just up the road from their home.

What you didn’t see, what you couldn’t have seen, is how this bond was forged from utter ruin.

Those intimate friends who know the family secret marvel at what the Thompsons have built from rubble, from hearts broken into a million pieces by a tragic accident 29 years ago.

They are revealing their scars reluctantly, only because they have heard whispers grow more loudly, because they dread gossip taking cruel, inaccurate twists. They’re disappointed they feel pressure to share private family matters, but they’re doing it so the story isn’t turned into something ugly.

Here it is, the simple and complicated truth: Scott Thompson isn’t really Nicholas’ father. Well, not his biological father, though Nicholas will tell you Scott is his father in every other way imaginable.

Scott’s oldest brother by four years, Paul Curtis Thompson, is Nicholas’ father. He went by the name Curt, and he was Judy’s high school sweetheart at South Plantation High in Plantation, Fla. Curt and Judy married on March 8, 1980, five years after meeting, after making a pact that they both would finish college before exchanging vows.

Two years later, Nicholas was born, his birth feeling like a miracle on Christmas Day. The feelings of wonder and joy this gift brought, though, were leveled in a devastating blow just eight weeks after his birth.

Nicholas would never get to know his biological father.

Curt died in a skiing accident in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado on Feb. 21, 1983.

Curt loved skiing. He was 25 at the time, working in the credit department at a GMAC office near the couple’s Davie, Fla., townhouse. Eager to make the most of good powder at Arapahoe Basin in the White River National Forest, Curt kissed Judy and young Nicholas goodbye to head out on a short ski trip with his three best pals. With brother Scott, with best friend Marty Mattone, with brother-in-law Jimmy Fischi, Curt relished the camaraderie, but the trip turned deadly on the third day.

Photo gallery: Thompson family

Separated from his pals coming down the lower portion of a mountain slope on a morning run, Curt swerved hard to avoid some kids racing past, and he lost control on a turn, crashing off the slope and into a rock bed aside the run. At least that’s the best explanation the family received as to how Curt died.

Scott is a tough guy, people will tell you this, but his eyes water to this day telling the story.

The foursome got split up on their way down the mountain. Marty hurt his ankle, and he skipped the run, but he waited for his friends at the bottom of the slope. Scott came down first, but Curt and Jimmy never came.

“There was this little buzz from people coming down the slope, that there was a bad accident just a little ways back,” Scott said.

With one skier after another finishing and pointing back up the hill, with Curt and Jimmy still nowhere to be seen, Scott’s worry became intolerable.

“I just started panicking,” Scott said.

Yanking off his skis, Scott sprinted up the slope in his boots as fast he could, some 500 yards, around a bend, to a craggy edge of the mountain where his heart still breaks with the memory.

That’s where Scott saw his brother writhing in pain, paramedics huddled around him, trying to hold him still while treating him and preparing him for transport down the mountain. While Curt wasn’t lucid, wasn’t able to speak much to him, Scott knew the injuries were serious with paramedics radioing for a helicopter to fly Curt to a nearby hospital. Jimmy, the last to traverse the mountain, saw Scott sprinting up the hill and skied over to the commotion.

“Curt was hurting badly, in so much pain, I still hate to relive it,” Scott said.

An hour later, with Curt being treated in the back of the resort’s infirmary, Scott waited just beyond the doors. That’s where a doctor, or paramedic, Scott’s not sure exactly, finally emerged.

“I’m sorry,” he told Scott plainly. “Your brother has expired.”

Expired? The word pierced Scott like a bullet through the brain. He couldn’t get his mind around the word. Expired?

Curt was gone.

Unbelievable. Impossible. Incomprehensible.

Scott still can’t find the words for the shock that flattened him.

“He died of internal injuries,” Scott said. “Basically, he bled to death on the inside.”

Scott broke the news to his father in a telephone call, then his father called the doctor’s office back in Plantation, where Judy was working as a dental assistant. Judy was in the back preparing a dental bridge when the office manager told her she needed to go immediately to her mother’s house. Judy knew something was terribly wrong, but she didn’t know what until she saw Mimi Fischi, her mother, with a priest at the door.

Mimi was literally floored by the telephone call, by the news of Curt’s death. She was taking care of Nicholas, as she did every day when Curt and Judy went off to work.

“I put Nick in my arms immediately after getting the call and raced to a friend’s house next door,” Mimi says today. “I think I barely got him into my neighbor’s arms when I collapsed and just broke down in tears. We loved Curt. My husband just loved Curt so much.”

That’s another dizzying spin to this story. About a year before Curt’s death, Judy’s father died, bone cancer taking Vince Fischi at 51. Mimi wasn’t sure how Judy would take this blow on top of the lingering pain of the loss of her father. Mimi wasn’t sure how she would tell her daughter that Curt was dead. That’s why she called Father Quilligan, her parish priest.

All these years later, sitting in the family room of her Coral Springs home, Judy weeps at the memory.

“It’s all a blur, and you end up blocking out some things,” says Judy, who still works in a South Florida dental office. “I just remember I freaked out. I’m 25, and I’ve just lost my husband, the love of my life. I’ve got a son, 8 weeks old; a mortgage with an incredible 16.5 percent interest rate; a car payment and no idea what I was supposed to do.

“I didn’t know how I was going to function.”

Scott didn’t either. Curt was his indestructible big brother, his idol and best friend. Curt played baseball at South Plantation, then Broward Community College, then Florida Atlantic University. He tried out twice for the Kansas City Royals, never making it, but never losing his love for baseball. Curt also loved cars, had a passion for rebuilding old Corvettes and old Mustangs.

In fact, that’s how Curt first caught Judy’s eye. After a move from Cocoa Beach, Curt was the new kid at South Plantation his senior year, the new kid who arrived for school in a red ’67 Mustang coupe.

“He had long blond hair, and these blue, blue eyes, like Scott’s eyes and everyone else in their family,” Judy said.

After Curt and Judy married, Scott’s father was transferred in his job with the Ford Motor Co.’s credit department. Scott moved with his parents to Farmington Hills, Mich., and enrolled at the University of Michigan.

After Curt’s death, Scott struggled, and he missed the friends he made in South Florida, where Jimmy, Judy, Marty and Curt did so much together. They took trips to the Florida Keys together to fish and water ski. They played golf together. They were nearly inseparable.

While living in Michigan, Scott used to visit Curt and Judy, staying with them during summer and holidays. After Curt’s death, he would check on Judy, with phone calls and more summer and holiday visits. Back in Plantation, Jimmy took special care of his sister, making sure Judy would come out dancing, or to the movies, or golfing with their friends. Scott joined when he was home.

Judy says family pulled her from the abyss, saved her and Nicholas.

After Scott graduated from Michigan, he couldn’t take it anymore. In the summer of ’84, he bolted back to South Florida, where Judy had a spare room for him to stay. Scott, who graduated in industrial engineering, worked odd jobs before landing his first big job at Power Products in Pompano Beach. He helped take care of Nicholas, helped Judy with chores, joined in when Jimmy organized nights out for the gang.

Through all of this, sometime early in ’85, Scott and Judy said their friendship turned almost naturally into a romance.

“It took awhile, but doing so many things together with family and friends, it was just kind of a natural flow to something more,” Judy said. “It was like it was meant to be.”

Scott didn’t have to tell Mimi what was happening. She knew, and she thanked God for it. Mimi could see how good they were for each other, how good it was for Nicholas.

“Our good friends were happy for us, our parents were all happy for us, but I did worry what other people would think,” Scott said.

Scott and Judy married quietly in a small gathering at the Broward County Courthouse on Oct. 31, 1985.

“Judy had her big wedding,” Scott said.

And the couple had a new life, a healing union that would renew them both.

“Scott gave me that happiness again,” Judy said. “People don’t really know him, how much he’s sacrificed for our family, really putting us first.”

Scott and Judy learned they could overcome almost anything together. In fact, Judy’s overcome a breast cancer diagnosis, reaching the magical five-year survival window last September.

Still, back in their beginning, the greatest challenge of the new family dynamic was figuring out when and how to tell Nicholas about his father’s death.

Both Scott and Judy worried that Nicholas might hear it from somebody else, that it might scar him hearing that way. So when Nicholas was in second grade, they sat him on the family-room couch and showed him a family photo that included both Scott and Curt.

Judy pointed to Scott first.

“That’s your daddy,” Judy said.

Then she pointed to Curt.

“And that’s your father, that’s Curt,” Judy told him. “He was Scott’s brother.”

And Nicholas figured it out, best he could at the time.

“We could see some sadness in him, but he took it very well,” Scott said.

Within the Thompson family, among close friends, this doesn’t feel like a secret. It never has. That’s what the Thompsons would like people to understand.

Curt’s memory remains a powerful presence in their lives, visiting not like a ghost rattling the doors and windows of their souls, but like a gentle breeze whose return is always welcome. Curtis, the youngest of the siblings, is named after Curt.

“This isn’t something we’ve swept under the rug in our family,” Judy said. “We talk about Curt. He was a part of our lives. He’s gone, but he’s still a part of our lives today.”

When Lexi was 10, and Curtis 12, Judy and Scott kept their two youngest after a Sunday mass at St. Gregory’s near their home. In a pew, in an empty church, they shared the family history with them for the first time.

“It was pretty emotional, a lot to take in,” Lexi said. “But our family is really close. My brothers, they’re like my best friends. Our dad, my mother, they’re always there for us, and we like all being together.”

The family has never been ashamed of the story, never intentionally hid it from outsiders, but it was never something they openly shared. It has always been private, family business. Nicholas didn’t begin telling his friends until a few years ago.

“When you’re younger, kids can be brutal,” Nicholas said.

He didn’t want them having ammunition.

Scott and Judy passed along to Nicholas a number of Curt’s possessions. Nicholas keeps his father’s coin collection in a safe in his home. He has his father’s wallet, which contains Curt’s driver’s license, his GMAC employee card, a wedding photo, and Nick’s baby photo. Nicholas also has his father’s South Plantation senior class ring and his saxophone, which Curt never mastered.

“I’ve asked questions about him over the years, but I’ve mostly learned about him just listening to my parents and my godfather talk about him,” Nicholas said.

Marty Mattone was Curt’s best friend. He was the best man in Curt and Judy’s wedding. He is also Nicholas’ godfather. He made sure to pass his best memories to Nicholas.

“Curt and I were like brothers,” says Mattone, who makes his home in Jacksonville now. “After Curt passed, I couldn’t have hoped for anyone else to raise Nicholas than Scott. Those children couldn’t have a better father or mother. The proof is in the pudding, in who they are as a family today.”

Sometimes, Judy says, she almost gasps when Nicholas turns a certain way.

“He’s beginning to look so much like Curt,” Judy says. “They’re alike in so many ways. They’re both know-it-alls. They’re both really precise, really organized, really determined to finish something they’ve started.”

While Nicholas honors his biological father’s memory, he says Scott is his father in every way.

“That’s the way it has always been, and that’s the way it will always be,” Nicholas said.

The bond is so strong Scott will serve as Nicholas’ best man when Nicholas gets married later this year.

“I think that really shows you how close we are,” Nicholas said.

So does the fact that when Nicholas purchased a house a couple years ago, he bought the empty house 500 yards from his parents’ home. Scott and Judy live on the 12th hole at Eagle Trace Golf Club. Nicholas lives on the 16th hole.

“I’m sure when Curt looks down, he’s happy with what’s happened,” Scott said.

Really, that might be all anyone needs to know about this remarkable new public turn in the Thompson family story.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Farewell to the mouth that roared

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

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S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

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'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.