Daily Egyptian

SIU golfer finds home in Carbondale

By Tyler Davis

SIU and Murray State University may only be two hours apart, but for one Saluki golfer, the two had a world of differences. 

For junior Wade Thompson, the hardest decision to make was to come to Carbondale. Thompson was a two-year golfer at Murray State University before he evaluated his career on and off the course, and brought his swing to SIU.

“I had a scholarship from [MSU] and went down there because I thought I’d like it, but it just didn’t end up working out,” he said. “Our facilities were not what I expected and I didn’t like the way things were ran.”

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Thompson said his initial decision to attend Murray State was a tough one. He had multiple Division I institutions to choose from, including walk-on opportunities at Big Ten schools, like the University of Michigan and Penn State University.

Academics played a huge role for Thompson, who was a National Honor Society student in high school while he led his golf team to a state championship. He has a combined 3.91 grade point average through five semesters at both universities.

“I knew I wasn’t quite good enough to play [in the Big Ten] at that stage of my career,” he said. “I wanted to be a civil engineer, so I chose Murray State, but they only had civil engineering technology, so I switched to accounting.”

Thompson said when he joined the Racers, things were not as he expected. He said being a Saluki gave him more opportunities to play golf every tournament and more chances in the classroom.

Thompson said he knew about SIU’s prestigious accounting program while attending MSU, but academics were not his only reason for switching. At the college level, not all players compete in every tournament.Players must do well in the qualifying round before being allowed to make a tournament lineup, which consists of five players.

During his first two years, the Racers had top players in the Ohio Valley Conference as well as a solid lineup of seniors.

Thompson said academics come first but the lack of inclusion in tournaments he qualified for also played a role in his departure.

“With how great SIUC’s accounting was, it was the biggest reason I ended up here,” he said. “But I would also qualify quite a bit [at MSU] but wouldn’t get taken to tournaments. I didn’t think I was getting treated fairly in that department.”

MSU coach Eddie Hunt said he enjoyed Wade as a student and golfer, but disagreed with the notion that he held Thompson out of tournaments he qualified for.

“I have nothing but positive things to stay about Wade, he was a great kid,” Hunt said. “But I’ll dispute that (he was held out), he got every opportunity to play at Murray State.”

Hunt said Thompson’s departure was a blow to his program. He said he expected Thompson to play more with the graduation of three seniors but in the end, he felt the decision was what’s best for both parties.

“He got to be where he wanted to be and we freed up a scholarship,” Hunt said. “It was a win-win for both of us.”

SIU coach Leroy Newton said he was excited to have a polished golfer fall into his lap. Newton did not originally recruit Thompson but said he is happy to have him on the team. He is usually the No. 1 or 2 player for the Salukis.

“He’s adapted to our style, the kids enjoy him, I enjoy him and he’s got a lot of potential to be a very good player for us,” Newton said. “He’s working on being one of our main players and that’s what we expect.”

Both Hunt and Newton said he lived up to the billing. Hunt saw Thompson play well against the Racers in two fall tournaments. Thompson shot a 5-over-par at the Austin Peay State University Intercollegiate tournament and a 2-under-par at the Skyhawk Fall Classic.

Newton and Thompson’s teammates are also looking to the junior for leadership moving forward. Newton said he hopes Thompson will “step up” next year and take over for senior captain Caleb Harms.

Harms said Thompson should take the reins next year and he already has started to show leadership skills with his honesty and quick wit.

“He’s always keeping us laughing and loose,” Harms said. “He’s already a leader. He always voices his opinion and tells what he thinks no matter what. He’ll be a good captain if he gets selected.”

For Thompson, his teammates, his academic success and an upgrade in facilities have made Carbondale the right destination for him. He said what ended up being his toughest adjustment was transferring his credits.

“A lot of my credits didn’t transfer, so I’m going to have to make up a lot of that but I still think it was the best decision for me,” he said. “I like Carbondale. It’s been kind of a crooked road but I feel like I’m on the right path now.”

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected] dailyegyptian.com, on Twitter @TDavis_DE or at 536-3311 ext. 269.

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