Right Here, Right Now: Defending Rex Hospital Open champion Kyle Thompson plays with a purpose

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – Defending and three-time Rex Hospital Open champion Kyle Thompson said things happen for a reason.

He wasn’t just sound-biting a cliché that many espouse after a life-changing event takes place, but one that he believes has guided why he continues to play on the Web.com Tour, still working to earn a PGA Tour card as well as having a platform with which to influence others’ lives.

“You never know when it’s going to be your week,” Thompson said.

“Who would’ve ever thought I’d win this tournament last year – probably the longest shot in the field.”

Being a long shot has worked to his favor, particularly in 2015.

Talking with him following a Tuesday practice round, the mention of SetFreeAlliance.org really got him to reveal his outlook on his game and his life, particularly after he won his third title at TPC Wakefield Plantation last year.

If he hadn’t won, he may not have continued playing for much longer.

However, the organization which he has proudly displayed on his sleeve since last season provided the purpose for him to forge ahead along the fairway while helping to end child slavery in India.

“They’ve done amazing work for what they call these ‘untouchables’,” Thompson began in describing Set Free Alliance’s scope.

“These kids over in India basically have been sold into slavery by their family to pay high interest debts that they have. The family either starves or goes broke, so they sell their children off. It’s really awful this ever happens. So far there have been thousands of kids saved. Our church supports it back in Greenville (S.C.), and the local charity, I know the people that run it – top-quality, top notch-people. One hundred percent of the proceeds go right to the charity for these kids.”

One of many organizations and causes that an individual can support, this one in particular hit home with him after he heard about it through his local church.

Getting involved with the charity actually came about on a flight back to his home following a missed qualifier in San Antonio, Texas.

“I was really struggling,” Thompson said.

“I sat down on a Southwest flight, I sat down in the middle seat and the guy beside me – I didn’t know him – halfway through the flight turned his computer on and he’s watching a Set Free Alliance video. It was the same one we had watched in church. We started chatting and I said, ‘look, I’ve got two events that I’m in this year, Greenville and Raleigh, and I’d love to wear the logo, if you want.’ So, I put it on my shirt and got it on the bag.”

Followed up by an appearance on the radio show Fairways of Life with Matt Adams on PGA Tour Radio that reached out to tens of millions of listeners, Thompson returned to TPC Wakefield Plantation with a renewed outlook and focus.

“In my mind, if all my years of struggling was just to put me in that spot to be on the radio and talkin’ about that…everything happens for a reason.”

He proceeded to card scores of 63, 68, 69, and 67, won a three-man playoff over Miguel Angel Carballo and Patton Kizzire and raised another crystal trophy.

It was his best career finish as his 267 topped his 2007 Rex win by a stroke, and his 2011 victory by three.

“It’s wild how things just piece together our lives. It’s pretty neat.”

Preparing to tee off in his 13th Rex Hospital Open on Thursday, Thompson sounded and looked like he was coming in with that same clear mind, even after missing the cut in three of his last four starts.

Even as the defending champion, he didn’t appear tense and couldn’t have been any calmer while talking about his outlook for the week.

“It’s just a crazy game and you can’t get caught up into what you did last week,” Thompson concluded.

“Every week is a new week, it’s a fresh start, and we’re all tied for first on Thursday morning. That’s the way I look at it. I never let my performance of the previous week carry into my performance the following week. You never know when it’s gonna be your week.”

Knowing that his purpose to perform well will not only continue to help earn a living to support his family, Thompson also knows that his success can help others continents away to dream to do the same one day.