If steady improvement leads to the top, Thomas Bradshaw has his golf career cruising along the correct path.
Bradshaw won his share of junior tournaments and captured the big prize in 2008, the South Carolina Golf Association’s Junior Championship, by seven strokes.
He added to his trophy collection at A.C. Flora High, earning a couple individual state titles and playing a large role in the Falcons’ state championships.
College golf came next, and he earned a spot in the starting lineup at Clemson his freshman year.
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What would be next? How about a record-setting performance in winning the Rice Planters Amateur and coming back with a runner-up finish in the prestigious North and South Amateur?
Spot a pattern here? As the level of competition became stronger, so did his game.
“It’s been a great couple of weeks, and I hope to continue,” Bradshaw said in looking to a summer schedule that includes U.S. Amateur qualifying this week, the State Amateur in early August and, hopefully, the U.S. Amateur later in August.
“I have been striking the ball a lot better and more consistently,” he said, noting that his work with instructor Curt Sanders is paying dividends. “That’s made a huge difference in my game.”
His golfing journey began at age 8 at the par-3 Riverside course with his dad, Bill, and older brother, Brewer. Dad showed how to play the game with a hole-in-one that day, and golf became the family game for the brothers and sister Collins. All play in college, Brewer and Thomas at Clemson and Collins at the University of Georgia.
“We have some great family rivalries,” Thomas said. “They’re awesome.”
Brewer’s passion for golf influenced Thomas, who said, “I would tag along with him at Spring Valley (Country Club) and finally started to get more involved with golf.”
Working with Sanders at the University Club boosted his game on the course, and working with his dad provided off-the-course direction.
Bill Bradshaw, who played football at USC, “obviously knows what it takes to succeed in athletics,” Thomas said. “He would work with us in practice, on practice schedules and focus on goals. He’s been the rock for my golf career.”
Sheri, his mom, provides influence, too; she caddied for Thomas at both the Rice Planters and the North and South.
“She came up at the Rice Planters and asked, ‘Do you want a caddie?’ ” Thomas said. “I asked her, ‘Are you serious?’ She was, and she was great. Just at the North and South, we had three rounds of qualifying and four rounds in match play, and she was there every step of the way.”
Bradshaw says his victory in the 2008 SCGA Junior Championship the summer prior to his junior year at Flora convinced him he could succeed in golf. He got another confidence boost when Clemson coach Larry Penley changed plans to redshirt Bradshaw and inserted him into the lineup as a freshman.
“Coach had told me after Christmas I would redshirt and he wanted me to work hard and get ready for the summer,” Bradshaw said. “Then, he came up in the spring (of 2011) and told me he wanted me to play in the next tournament. I was shocked, then I thought, ‘Let’s do this!’ ”
Now, he will head into his junior year at Clemson with one prestigious amateur tourney title to his credit, and the victory came in record-setting fashion at an event won by players such as Hal Sutton, Stewart Cink and Tom Lehman. Bradshaw finished 20-under-par for four rounds and outdueled Scott Harvey, one of the best amateurs in the Carolinas.
Considering the caliber of competition, “that’s my biggest win,” Bradshaw said. “Winning a tournament like that is a great confidence booster.”
The triumph also continues the pattern and represents another step on the road to bigger and better things.