Sunday Talk: Paul Thompson - The garrison golfer
Let's be honest, a 30-year-old resident of one of Jamaica's crudest garrisons, Cassava Piece, is hardly the person you expect to be winning golf tournaments.
Well, Jamaica's top amateur golfer Paul Thompson is breaking all sort of moulds; in a script that shows that no ambition is out of range and that one's mailing address has nothing to do with one's potential.
Thompson has been swinging clubs for well over a decade and intends to take his love for the sport to new levels; local, regional and international success. It's all about golf for him - he competes at every opportunity and when he isn't doing that, he is still on the course on caddy duty.
Surrounded by negativity and blanketed by stigma, Thompson continues to drive and putt his way to the top of local amateur golf. Recently, I got the chance to speak to the ambitious young man, who shared his experiences on the greens of Jamaica's top golf courses and on the troubled asphalt in the place he calls home; the place known as the 'Gullyside'.
André Lowe (AL): Thanks for the chat Paul, how are things man?
Paul Thompson (PT): Everything is good, thanks.
AL: Ok, so you are the national amateur champion but let's start out by hearing a bit more about yourself.
PT: I'm just a humble, regular, normal person; I don't take anything for granted. I am 30 years old, I live in Cassava Piece and just like to take things easy and simple.
AL: A 30-year-old from Cassava Piece, who plays golf; that's not something we hear everyday. How did you get involved in the sport in the first place?
PT: I was actually born in the sport - well I could put it that way. Most of my family lived on the golf course and I basically born come see them there so to speak, so I was actually born on the course - the Constant Spring golf course.
My grandfather used to work on the golf course, he and my grandmother and I came and saw them there; most of my family on his side.
AL: Most persons your age and from your community I imagine would be more drawn to playing football or cricket or another, let's say, traditional sport for Jamaicans.
PT: ... I didn't have any interest in those sports really. Maybe because I was on the golf course most of my days and I was always around golf, I just took to that sport. I really didn't pay too much attention to any other sport.
AL: Tell us some more about that. What is it that you like most about golf?
PT: It helps to turn you into a better person, it teaches you a lot of discipline as well, and teaches you determination.
AL: You still live in Cassava Piece, tell us some more about life for you in that community.
PT: On a whole, it's very tough, as you know it's a garrison and all garrisons come with challenges but once you have your head on your body you can pull through.
AL: Would you say that golf is one of the reasons why you have been able to stay away from the negative influences?
PT: Most definitely! Golf is a gentleman's sport and once you are in the sport, you will have to learn to carry yourself a certain way and adapt.
AL: Not a lot of persons from challenging communities like yours gravitate towards sports like golf. What has the reception been like towards you?
PT: I get a lot of support from the people, they are all supportive.
AL: What were you doing before golf?
PT: Nothing, absolutely nothing.
AL: Now, it was your first time winning the national amateur title.
PT: Yes, it was my first time winning the title and it's a wonderful feeling to know that I am the top amateur player in Jamaica. It was a tough competition, we had some rain and that kinda put a damper on the second day. I played well on the first day but the rain was distracting, it really affected me.
AL: Yes, I remember you almost lost the title on that second day. What, though, are your ambitions in the sport?
PT: There is still a long way to go for me and I am just taking it one day at a time. Wherever the sport takes me is where I will go, the sky is the limit.
AL: I have an idea what your answer will be but who is your favourite golfer?
PT: (laughs) Tiger Woods no doubt. In spite of everything, he will always be my favourite golfer. Firstly, he is a black man and he has done a lot for the sport generally; especially young kids from the ghetto as well.
AL: Ok, Paul let's touch another topic. Golf carries a certain reputation where it is seen as a rich person's game or some would say an 'uptown sport'. Do you believe that's a reason why a lot of youngsters stay away from the sport?
PT: That has a lot to do with it, for real. I think they can do a bit more with it to establish the sport in schools, in the communities and so forth.
AL: Do you find that you are treated any differently at all because of your background inside the golf circles?
PT: No, not really; no.
AL: What would you say is the most challenging golf course in Jamaica?
PT: Half Moon because it's long, windy and it has a lot of obstacles.
AL: Ok, Paul a national amateur title in the bag, what's next for you?
PT: I would love to get my hands on the national championships.
AL: Well, good luck to you chief and we will certainly be keeping an eye on your progress.