Carol Semple Thompson: Golf's new Hall of Famer
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It wasn't a swing coach or a putting guru or even her father, a former president of the United States Golf Association, who probably should be credited with changing the competitive life of Carol Semple Thompson.
After graduating from Hollis University, where she played field hockey because the school didn't have a golf team, Thompson tried to resuscitate her ailing game by visiting the one person who could help her most.
Thompson had taken up her's dad offer to support her for a year while she tried to work on her game and become a professional golfer. But she had been playing badly for more than two years and decided she needed some help to rid her mind of the negative thoughts that had engulfed her game.
So she visited a hypnotist and listened daily to positive-thought tapes he had made for her. The results were immediate.
"I won the U.S. Amateur six weeks later [in 1973], then I won the British Amateur and made the Curtis Cup team," Thompson said. "It was all so cool."
But nothing as cool as this.
Thompson, a Sewickley resident and one of the most decorated amateurs in golf history, will feel like she is in a hypnotic state tomorrow when she becomes only the second person from Western Pennsylvania to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla. One week after turning 60, she will be part of an induction class that includes course architect Pete Dye, Bob Charles, Denny Shute, Craig Wood and writer Herbert Warren Wind.
The euphoria Thompson will feel when she is presented for induction by former USGA president Judy Bell, another Hall of Fame member, might be even more intoxicating than hypnosis.
"I love hypnosis," Thompson said the other day, trying to finish all the organizational matters for the friends and relatives who will attend the induction ceremonies, which begin at 6 p.m. tomorrow and will be televised live by the Golf Channel. "I would do it at any time. If someone offered to hypnotize me right now, I'd do it. I highly recommend it. It's a wonderful experience."
And why not? It helped turn Thompson into a seven-time USGA champion who holds the record for most Curtis Cup appearances (12) and Curtis Cup victories (18). What's more, she has played in more than 100 USGA championships and is one of only 11 players to win the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur (1974) championship in their career.
But Thompson is being inducted into the Hall of Fame as much for her grace, contribution and ambassadorship to the game of golf, as well. The daughter of the late Harton "Bud" Semple, who was USGA president in 1974-75, Thompson has been such a dominant presence in amateur golf she was given the Bobby Jones Award, the USGA's highest honor which recognizes distinguished sportsmanship in golf, in 2003.
Fittingly, she has been dubbed "the queen of women's amateur golf."
"I just wish my husband were here to see it," said Phyllis Semple, 87, Carol's mother and herself a local amateur golf champion. "He would be amazed."
One of Thompson's great thrills in life was being presented the trophy for winning the 1973 U.S. Amateur by her father. When she won the 1990 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Allegheny Country Club, her home course, it was just six months after her father died. It was at Allegheny that the Semple family would play golf every Sunday afternoon, always following one rule: You can't quit until you break 90.
"He would be beside himself if he were here now," Thompson said. "He would be totally incredulous that any daughter of his would get to this point. I know he will be watching from somewhere."
Thompson is joining some elite company. The only other person from Western Pennsylvania in the Hall of Fame is Arnold Palmer, Latrobe's native son.
"She is a wonderful lady and has certainly represented the game very well," Palmer said the other day from his office at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla. "I knew her dad very well. I think she is a great person and a great player."
Thompson has always kept select company. She is one of just five players in history to have won three different USGA titles, joining Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Joanne Carner and Tiger Woods.
"I've watched her grow up from a little kid to one of the best amateur players in the world," Bell said. "She's got so much spirit in a quiet sort of way, and she cares so much about the game. That's what we're really going to be honoring with her, not just her accomplishments on the course. It's a privilege for me to introduce her."
First Published November 9, 2008 12:00 am