REX Hospital Open golfers visit UNC REX Cancer Center
Odds are, Thomas Bass of Holly Springs is not going to win the Rex Hospital Open.
Chris Baker, who followed up a second-round 60 with a 68 on Saturday, had a four-shot lead after the third round at the Country Club of Wakefield Plantation. Bass, with a 3-under 68, will go into Sunday’s final round tied for ninth place, seven shots behind the leader in the Web.com Tour tournament, but with a positive, can-do attitude.
“You’re trying to win every event you get to,” Bass said Saturday. “That sounds like a long shot but that’s the goal every week.”
Bass is not the type to get in a hurry, to get ahead of himself. He didn’t start playing golf until he was 12, didn’t go to UNC Wilmington on a scholarship and didn’t quickly transition from college golf to the Web.com Tour.
“He has earned everything he’s gotten,” Donnie Bass, Thomas’ father, said Saturday.
Bass first beat his father, an avid golfer, at Devils Ridge Golf Club when he was 15, Donnie Bass said. After prep golf at Holly Springs High, he was a walk-on at UNCW, won his first college tournament as a sophomore and was awarded that scholarship. And did it pretty much as a self-taught golfer, his father said.
That Bass is 28 years old and now playing his first year on the Web.com Tour says a lot about his professional career. It also speaks to his staying power in a sport that tests your mettle as a player and the patience of those who support you, financially and otherwise, as you try to make your way.
“I’ve kind of climbed that ladder slowly, one ring at a time,” he said. “Not everyone can be Jordan Spieth.”
Bass has been on the eGolf Tour and GProTour, which he calls the “stepping stones of professional golf,” winning a few times. He had tried the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament a few times, missing out in the second stage, before advancing to the final stage last fall and earning playing status on the tour this year.
“I feel like my game has progressed to the point I can compete out here,” he said. “Three years ago, four years ago if you’d have asked me I probably would have said no, that honestly I wasn’t ready mentally and my game still needed improvement.”
After tying for 51st in his first Web.com Tour event this year, Bass missed four straight cuts. But the past two tournament before the Rex had him tying for 27th in the Knoxville Open and then 59th in the Evan Scholars Invitational.
At Knoxville, he opened with rounds of 69, 69 and 65, only to put up a 74 in the final round. That cost him some money -- Bass has just $7,076 this year.
“I’ve been playing solid lately but haven’t sealed the deal on the weekends,” he said. “I need to keep my foot down and a pedal-to-the-mettle kind of attitude.”
Bass, who lives in Wilmington, opened the Rex by making a 50-foot birdie putt. Maybe he knew then it might be a good week. He had a 68 in the opening round, then a 66 on Friday..
In Saturday’s round, he bogeyed the par-4 14th hole after a poor drive and second shot. But he made a 6-footer for the bogey, the kind of putt that can be a round-saver. “To get a 5 there, after being in two jail cells, was big,” he said.
At the par-3 16th, Bass put a 9-iron about eight feet from the pin, which was tucked in the front right. He made the birdie putt, much to the delight of the crowd packed into the twin skyboxes that let out a big roar.
“They get a free beer if you make a birdie,” Bass said, smiling. “That was cool.”
Bass can shoot some low numbers. He holds the course record on the Nicklaus Course at the Country Club of Landfall outside Wilmington, shooting a 61.
A low number Sunday might not win. But Chris Baker had that 60. There have been a couple of 62s, including one Saturday by Zack Sucker, who was among four players tied for second. Low numbers are out there.
“As the saying goes, I’ve cracked the door but I have yet to bust it down,” Bass said. “We’re trying really hard this year to just kick that door open and be where we need to be.”