Jenny Suh Thompson has never drifted too far off course — the golf course that is. She’s always had a unique and special relationship with the game.
It’s one that’s allowed her to stay close to it, no matter where her life has taken her. It’s also what has led her to qualify for this year’s Women’s PGA Championship a few years after she retired from the LPGA Tour.
Thompson, now the membership director and PGA pro at The Dye Preserve in Jupiter, qualified for the tournament after sixth finishing in the PGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship in February.
She’ll be competing against some of the best in the world at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship starting Thursday at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Obviously, it’s very exciting,” Thompson said. “The last couple weeks I’ve been practicing, it’s my normal schedule to get a little nervous like the week before and feel stressed. And my husband told me yesterday, he said, ‘This is the first major that you’ll play that you have everything that you dreamed of, all the other things that you wanted.
“So, it’s just time.”
A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Thompson began playing golf at age 7 with her father, who was looking for a way to combine his love for the sport with family time. He would often give Thompson an ice cream cone or treat for good performance, which served as strong motivation.
Even when the food incentive went away, however, she still loved playing.
Kirk Lucas was one of Thompson’s earliest golf coaches and has been working with her ahead of the upcoming tournament. He began coaching her while she was in middle school, at his private golf practice known as “The Farm,” he felt her passion for the game right away.
“She did love it,” Lucas said of those early days. “And I mean she loved it for a lot of reasons. I think she likes the competitive nature. I think she loves the challenge. … And I think what playing all that golf did was, you know, she always felt comfortable.”
“Jenny enjoyed playing golf with everybody. And it came across, it really came across.”
Thompson’s passion evolved into dominance as she continued to improve. In high school she won the Virginia boys state championship, as her school didn’t have a women’s team, and earned a scholarship to Furman University before transferring to Alabama for her last two seasons.
In college, she earned several accolades, including making two All-American teams. Mic Potter, who is still at Alabama, coached Thompson at both schools and helped to nurture the professional-level potential that he saw in her.
“I think as a junior we probably felt like her track was to do the things it took to get to the LPGA Tour,” Potter said. “And providing intentional training regiments that would get her there was what we intended to provide for her.”
After competing for a few years in the Duramed Futures Tour, Thompson fulfilled a lifelong dream of competing in the LPGA Tour from 2011-15.
She decided to retire after the conclusion of the 2015 season at age 30.
While the decision to take a step away from her dream and career was a difficult one, she had become tired of the relentless travel and toll that the tour was taking on her. She was ready to move on to the next phase of her life and fulfill another dream.
“I know people think that the life is very glamorous and there really are glamorous parts… it’s not always like that,” Thompson said. “I wanted one home and stability. I wanted to start a family, I wanted to be able to date where I didn’t have to tell the guy like ‘Hey, like it’s been great, but I’m going to be gone for the next three months.’
“So, I guess I was just looking for stability.”
Now married with a 6-month-old named Oliver at home in Palm Beach Gardens, Thompson has found all that and more, while also remaining close to the game that she fell in love with at 7.
A few years after starting at The Dye Preserve, she took out her PGA pro license in 2018 and began to compete in the occasional tour event. The Women’s PGA Championship was a tournament she always wanted to qualify for but fell just short, until this year.
As she prepares for one of the biggest moments of her golfing journey, Thompson is looking forward to enjoying the moment with those she loves most.
“My husband has never seen me really compete in a tournament,” she said. “He’s seen me play in club tournaments at our home course, but he’s never seen me in a true professional golf tournament mode.
“He said to make sure that I remember, I play my best when I’m having fun. So, that’s what I’m gonna do.”