HANNIBAL — Quinn Thomas had a look of disgust on his face after watching a second shot in a row hook toward the left side.
His father, Joe, sitting on a bench a few feet behind his son on the driving range at Hannibal Country Club saw the same look. He gave his son a quick tip on how to correct it by rotating his left hand a quarter inch on the club.
On the next swing, the ball sailed through the air right down the middle.
“His attitude definitely changed,” his father said. “I’ve watched him hit balls and can see that disgust.”
Thomas grasped the lesson quickly.
“That little turn would have cost me three shots if I was in a round,” he said. “If you shoot 71, that’s sometimes means you tied for fifth. A 76, that could be tied for 30th.”
Every shot will matter for Thomas this week when he competes in the U.S. Kids World Teen Championship at Pinehurst No. 5 Golf Course in Pinehurst, N.C. The three-day tournament of about 160 golfers starts Thursday.
Thomas, 13, finished tied for 46th last year in the 12-year-old tournament with a three-day score of 193 and was 20 shots behind the leader.
Thomas is aiming to finish higher up the leaderboard this time.
“I definitely want to finish at least top 20,” Thomas said. “I want to at least have an even-par one of the rounds.”
A high placing will bring rewards. If Thomas finishes as one of the top 6 American golfers, he’s chosen to represent the United States and compete against the top 6 finished from around the world in the Van Horn Cup July 28.
That event is played on Pinehurst No. 2, the same course that hosted the U.S. Open in 2014, and the major tournament will return there in 2024.
“It’s kind of like a Ryder Cup tournament,” Thomas said. “That’d be a lot of fun to do.”
Thomas has been busy this summer already having played in tournaments in St. Louis, the Lake of the Ozarks, Kansas City and Bloomington, Ill. None of those courses, however, match the prestige of playing at Pinehurst.
It’s the second time he’s played at Pinehurst, and the second well-known course he’s played. Two summers ago, Thomas competed in the Drive, Chip and Putt competition held at Augusta National, the site of the Masters.
“When I came back from Pinehurst after finishing it was kind of like, ‘Wow, I just played at one of the top courses,’” Thomas said. “That and playing at Augusta is the two times I’ve gotten to soak in how big that was. It never (distracted me) while I was on the course.”
That’s because Thomas treats these events as business trips. He acknowledges the history and aura to playing at these courses, but doesn’t want it to consume him.
However, getting to play at prestigious courses drives him to get better.
“It motivates you because you see what your talent can do,” Thomas said. “It’s like, ‘If I can play here, maybe I can do this and that.’”