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Composure pays off for Thomson in first Jr. Masters match win

Will Thomson may only be 13 years old, but on the golf course he has the composure of a 13-year PGA Tour pro.

The Pittsford resident will move on to the final 16 in the championship flight when the International Junior Masters continues today at East Aurora Country Club.

He advanced to the second round of match play after a rocky start. He shot a 76 Tuesday, which left him uncertain of advancing to the championship flight. Wednesday, he recovered from a poor first couple holes to shoot 73, which put him at 149 overall – 16th among the 79 participants.

“I was definitely happy with how I played today,” Thomson said. “I struggled a bit yesterday, but I was able to hit it a lot better, hit a bunch of greens, make some putts and had a big improvement from yesterday.”

Match play began almost immediately after the second round of qualifying was completed, and Thomson overcame a three-down deficit to defeat Luke Llaneras of Miami Springs, Fla., 3-and-2.

Thomson fell behind by three after four holes. He struggled to putt and landed in the rough a few times. To make his comeback attempt more difficult, it began to rain fairly hard.

“You just have to try to keep as dry as possible,” Thomson said. “You have to keep your clubs dry, wipe off your grips before every shot and battle through it. There’s not a really great way to deal with it.”

After the fifth hole, things began to turn for Thomson. He got in a groove and fought his way back. He dominated the back nine.

“I got off to a slow start in the stroke play today, too, so I knew I had the ability to come back,” Thomson said. “I just kept my head in it, grinded it out and kept trying to make putts.”

Thomson turned some heads in 2013 when – at age 12 – he became the youngest entrant ever into the International Junior Masters. He reached the championship flight, losing in the first round of match play.

Following the tournament, he earned the title of New York State Boys Champion and finished in the top 10 in the Callaway World Junior Championships in San Diego before playing for the Pittsford Mendon high school varsity golf team as a seventh-grader.

Thomson is accustomed to winning, and he’s composed enough to stay focused in the inevitable rough patches that come with playing so much competitive golf.

In the annals of International Junior Masters history more than a few winners have gone on to play professionally and even more have a made a name for themselves in some way in the golf community. But none of them succeeded in the tournament as young as Thomson has.

Even if he isn’t able to win this year, Thomson plans to continue to play the tournament in the future. After this year, he’ll have five more chances.

“This is a great tournament,” Thomson said. “It’s one of the oldest tournaments in the North East. It’s really fun. I get to hang out with a lot of my friends, everybody comes here. (Winning) would be unbelievable. There’s not really words that could ever explain that. It’s definitely tough to do. I’ve got a lot of time and a lot of work.”

Thomson has an advantage over many of the other entrants, who come from all over the country and internationally – he’s become familiar with the course.

“It’s a really tough course to walk,” Thomson said. “The greens are really nice, but they’re tough to read and tough to putt on. It’s definitely a good challenge.”