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Justin Thompson is just one of the guys on FAU’s men’s golf team, but one thing sets him apart: He was home-schooled.

Thompson was home-schooled from sixth grade through high school, and he attributes much of his golfing success to the free time that home schooling afforded him. 

“When you can make up your own schedule as far as your schoolwork, and you can do school around your practice, you can actually improve more than kids that are going to school eight hours a day on a regular schedule,” said Thompson.

Florida state law allows home-schoolers to play public or private school sports. In high school, Thompson played for Grandview Preparatory School in Boca despite barely setting foot there. The team of eight players always included three to four home-schoolers, including Stefan Langer, the son of professional golfer Bernhard Langer.

“For sports like golf and tennis, if you’re going to be good, you’re probably going to be home-schooled,” said Thompson, a junior majoring in accounting. “Because it’s an individual sport, you don’t really need a team to improve, and with South Florida [weather], every day you can practice.

 “I think I went on the school property like twice in four years. It was just pretty much playing golf the whole time. There was one kid in the top five who actually went to the school.”

In addition to golfing for Grandview, Thompson played in junior golf tournaments — tournaments that high school-age golfers compete in for both practice and prestige. These tournaments kept him playing when times were tough.

“I had a really awesome [high school] coach. He really helped me a lot,” said Thompson. “He actually ran a junior golf tour, so he actually gave me an opportunity to play junior golf tournaments that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.  

“He let me work for him and then play in the field for free because I had worked the tournaments. I’d set up and tear down, so that was the only way I was going to play golf at that point, because I had a single mom and I wouldn’t have been able to afford $200 to $300 tournaments.”

Having golfed for 10 years, Thompson has spent the last two playing for FAU. 

“I didn’t actually play my first year,” said Thompson. “Then [FAU] had a walk-on, so I ended up just staying local and playing here, which was a good decision.”

FAU men’s golf head coach Angelo Sands has nothing but praise for the dedicated golfer.

“Justin is beginning to learn that he doesn’t have to hit it longer than anyone out there. He’s beginning to understand how to manage his game through the golf course, even when he doesn’t have his ‘A’ game,” said Sands. “That is what is separating Justin from where he was a year or two ago.”

Sands, who has coached FAU for the past three and a half years, isn’t solely impressed with Thompson’s golf game. 

“You can’t be with him very long without noticing the manners, the respect [he has],” said Sands. “His mom has done a great job of raising him, and that’s obvious to anyone who spends more than two minutes with him.”

In addition to being respected among his coaches and peers, Thompson is also improving his game. He is the only player on the team who has lowered his average score this semester. Thompson dropped his golfing average this spring from 75.8 to 75.0, and in golf, the lower the score, the better. 

Thompson is also one of five qualifying players on the FAU team who will play in FAU’s golf tournaments this year against teams such as USF, UCF and Rutgers, as well as in the 2010 Sun Belt Conference Championship in April.

But perhaps the most impressive feature of this home-schooled athlete is his ability to stay calm, cool and collected through every shot, game and tournament.

“I’ve never seen him throw a club, I’ve never seen him lose his temper, I’ve never even seen him get mad on a golf course. I mean never,” said Sands. “If it’s a good shot, OK. If it’s a bad shot, OK. No one shot is going to make or break him, and it’s a huge advantage.”

As far as using that advantage in the future, Thompson plans to play professionally after graduation, which would be simply another accomplishment that Thompson could attribute to his home schooling.