Justin Thompson isn’t often fazed on the golf course.
It doesn’t matter if his tee shot goes into the water or if he misses three straight putts — the University Park teenager has been through worse.
Thompson’s resolve has helped him become one of the top high school golfers in the Dallas area, but it didn’t come without a frightening price.
Thompson played about a half-dozen sports in elementary school. However, golf wasn’t one of them. He thought it wasn’t cool. “I played pretty much every sport except for golf,” he said.
That perspective changed abruptly when he was 10 years old. Thompson was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The resulting chemotherapy treatments required a plastic port to be inserted beneath the skin in his chest.
Suddenly, sports fell off Thompson’s radar. Even after he recovered, he wouldn’t be able to endure contact, doctors told him.
So a year after his diagnosis, Thompson healed enough to be able to exercise his competitive juices. His dad suggested a couple of golf camps, and Thompson reluctantly agreed.
What was once uncool suddenly became very cool to the youngster, and his instructors took notice.
“Right after my first lesson, they were asking if I was ever going to take a day off,” he said. “It was an outlet to keep my mind off things, and a way to get out of the house and exercise.”
It wasn’t long before Thompson started entering tournaments, beginning with a nine-hole event and working up from there.
When he reached middle school, Thompson’s doctors removed the port as the cancer went into remission.
Thompson’s dedication to golf quickly translated into tournament success. He won local youth events and last year claimed a title at a Texas Junior Golf Tour event in Bryan.
He has attended Trinity Christian Academy in Addison since fifth grade, except for one semester when he took classes at McCulloch Intermediate School via Skype while he was recuperating.
The Trojans won the TAPPS state title during his freshman season. Last month, as a junior, Thompson, tied for third individually at the state tournament in Glen Rose.
Last summer, Thompson played in the Junior PGA Championship. He’s committed to play for SMU in college, and hopes to qualify for the prestigious Texas Amateur and U.S. Amateur tournaments this year.
If he hadn’t gotten cancer, Thompson figures he’d be playing lacrosse or football or baseball or soccer — anything but golf. Not that he’s complaining.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Thompson said. “You ask ‘why me’ at the time, and then six or seven years later, you look back and realize, ‘oh, that’s why.’”