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Our Rich History: Thomas More’s first national champion ever, Lynn Thompson/NCAA women’s golf

By Raymond G. Hebert, Ph.D.
Thomas More University

Sources for this article include: Statistics provided by Michael Pagano Co-Director of Sports Information, TMU Athletics, and print media as noted.

“Championships are championships, no matter the makeup of the field.”

Those words symbolize Lynn Thompson’s march to Thomas More College’s first national championship ever (2002). It was in NCAA Division III Women’s Golf. Lynn was 44 years old that year and, with an amalgam of college credits completed, she entered Thomas More College with the standing of a Junior. She was a 1976 graduate of Loveland High School in Cincinnati and played on the high school Boy’s Golf Team in the mid-1970s. After high school, she initially attended Western Kentucky University (WKU) on a golf scholarship. She was at WKU for 1996 and 1997. After not returning, she later enrolled at the University of Cincinnati in 1981 where she studied in the College of Business until 1983, after which she moved into the world of business, even as a small business owner (“Thompson First TMC National Champ,” Community Recorder, May 23, 2002).

In 2002, Lynn Thompson (’05), became the first Saint ever to win a national championship, individual or team. (Thomas More University Athletics) 

Upon her arrival at TMC, Lynn remarked: “I wanted to go back to school for the degree and for personal achievement,” adding that, above all, “I didn’t know what to expect with golf – being a non-traditional student – but I played with great young women who never made me feel out of place” (Community Recorder). On several occasions, it was recorded that she wished that she had made the sacrifices earlier while admitting that she was “really enjoying it now.” Her records show academic success, maintaining a 3.8 overall GPA in her pursuit of a Bachelor’s of Elected Studies degree and a Business Administration minor. Upon her matriculation to Thomas More College, she still had two more years of athletic eligibility (TMU Archives).

So, at the age of 44, in the spring of 2002, along with freshmen Allison Byars and Sarah Johnson, Thompson became part of the first intercollegiate women’s golf team in the history of Villa Madonna/Thomas More College. The coach was Scott Amstutz (Shannon Russell, “Top of the Second”, spring 2002). Later in the same article, Amstutz spoke of being blessed to have Thompson as one of five on his fledgling squad. Among the strengths he mentioned was her ability to constantly “plug away,” instantly forgetting about bad holes and moving on. He praised her “blistering short game, unparalleled skill, and strong determination,” adding that in that first year, she defeated opponents by an average of six strokes, praising her as a golfer “even her rivals cheered for . . . a class act.” The result, according to the Athletic Department records, was a season in which “Thompson won seven spring tournaments (with one newspaper article saying eight) and tied for first place in another.” She received recognition as a first team All-American with a 76.25 scoring average, which ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time among Division III golfers. She entered the National Tournament as the Number 1 seed.

Thompson was later recorded as having completed the four-day NCAA Division III tournament at the Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Massachusetts with a 24-over par 312 (78-80-76-77) good for a seven-stroke victory over the second-place finisher. A look at the national statistics for that year showed that the winner of the Team Championship was Methodist University, which won six such championships in the first seven years of the tournament and ultimately 10 of the first twelve team championships. Of these, seven of the individual champions had been the top golfers for that year’s Methodist Team. It is exciting that one of the exceptions was in 2002 when 44-year-old Lynn Thompson brought home Thomas More College’s first national championship in any sport in school history. Comparatively, as highlighted in the same Community Recorder article mentioned above, “Thomas More had flirted with the possibility of a national championship before, beginning with the 1992 volleyball team that went to the final eight in the NCAA Tournament before losing to Calvin in the national quarterfinals.” The baseball team advanced to the NCAA regional tournament in 2000 “after a school best 32-13 record,” and, in 2001, the football team “posted a 10-0 regular season record and advanced to the second round of the 2001 NCAA Division III tournament (Community Recorder, May 23, 2002). It is significant that Lynn had entered the tournament ranked No. 1 with a 76.25 scoring average and her play did not disappoint, as she posted the lowest score in three of the top four rounds and she finished seven strokes ahead of the runner-up, Rachele Miller from Mary Hardin Baylor University (John Erardi, “TMC’s Thompson Wins NCAA Div. III Golf Title,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 23, 2002). Culminating the year, Lynn’s successful progression of championships that spring found her earning Player of the Year Honors from the National Golf Coaches Association (“Saint’s Sidelines,” TMU publication, spring 2002). While the hope was that Lynn would return in her senior year to win a second national championship in consecutive years, sadly that did not happen.

Lynn Thompson and the Thomas More women’s golf coach, during the 2002 DIII Women’s Golf Championship. (Thomas More University Athletics)

Over the years after that, though, Lynn continued to perform admirably in local and even national amateur golf competitions. It was in late July 2015, in looking back that Mark Hardin took his Enquirer readers down memory lane about Lynn Thompson’s successes beyond her 2002 National Championship in Division III Women’s Golf. Not long after her Loveland High School career on the Boy’s Golf Team, she won — in 1980 and 1981 — “back-to-back Cincinnati Amateur crowns and three more Women’s Metropolitan finals after that.” In talking to Hardin prior to the article, she confessed to having strong ties with the Women’s Met, as she played in her 38th at its 100th staging in 2015. She said: “I look upon it as the most important event every year. I have a real love for the tournament. It’s been a big thing for me since I was young” (Marc Hardin, “Loveland’s Thompson Keeps Swinging for the Met Title”, Cincinnati.com/The Enquirer, July 6, 2015).

Later in that same article, Hardin’s second theme emphasized how Thompson in her 50s continued to be competitive against players half her age. He related that she won the Women’s Ohio State Golf Association Senior Amateur at the Catawba Island Club in June of that year, after having won four senior Met crowns in 2008, ’11, ’13, and ’14. Her fifth Metropolitan Senior Women’s Crown in 2015 was in a ten-year period, quite a feat at any level of golf. That she came back and did it again in 2016 for her Sixth Ohio Senior Amateur is even more remarkable. Along the way, she had been recognized in 2009 as a Legend of Cincinnati Golf for her participation in 17 USGA events, including a win at the 2003 US Women’s State Team Championships with Emily Bastel and Heather Zielinski (Marc Hardin, “Lynn Thompson Wins Sixth Ohio Senior Amateur,” publication of Greater Cincinnati Women’s Golf Association, 2016). Meanwhile, in 2012, she was inducted into the Thomas More College/University Sports Hall of Fame.

Most recently, she is the owner of Thompson Gifts and Awards, a 30-year-old family run business which provides awards and promotional products for corporations, municipalities, and sports organizations. They served as the official medal supplier for the 2012 World Choir Games, held in Cincinnati. Yet, Thompson is never far from golf. In 2022, for example, at the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur in Anchorage, Alaska, she ended the multi-year run of a multi-year champion (Lara Tennant) to reach the quarterfinals. It was described as “one of the greatest upsets in the championship history” since she was only the 51st seed. Tennant had been 20-0 in her previous matches to that point (Michael Trostel, “Thompson Ends Tennant’s 3-year run as Final 8 set in Alaska,” USGA article, 2022).

Lynn Thompson (right) defeats Lara Tennant at the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. (Courtesy of Steven Gibbons, USGA, Thomas More University Athletics)

As this article reflects back on Lynn Thompson’s golf successes, particularly from 2002 to 2022, it brings to mind Marc Hardin’s conclusion to his 2015 story about the impact of golf on her life and in turn her impact on Greater Cincinnati Golf. He reminded us that through golf’s opportunities:” Thompson has traveled to places she might not have and formed enduring friendships through the continuing generosity of golf. It’s been a symbiotic relationship. Hers will be a lasting and revered name in local golf annals on both sides of the Ohio River . . . today, she stands out in a crowd with a golf game that just won’t quit” (Hardin, Enquirer.com, July 6, 2015). As a prime example of her consistency, in her career between 2008 and 2023, she won 8 Ohio Women’s competitions: 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2022, 2023. She also won 8 Greater Cincinnati Women’s Seniors competitions: 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2023.

Thomas More University is proud to be part of that admirable legacy. The institution’s first national recognition could not have been fostered by a better person and representative than Lynn Thompson.

Dr. Raymond G. Hebert is Professor of History and Executive Director of the William T. Robinson III Institute for Religious Liberty at Thomas More University. He is the leading author of Thomas More University at 100: Purpose, People, and Pathways to Student Success (2023). The book can be purchased by contacting the Thomas More University Bookstore at 859-344-3335. Dr. Hebert can be contacted at hebertr@thomasmore.edu.

Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD is Editor of the “Our Rich History” weekly series and Professor of History and Gender Studies at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). He also serves as Director of the ORVILLE Project (Ohio River Valley Innovation Library and Learning Enrichment), as well as Editor of the forthcoming ORVIE (Ohio River Valley Innovation Encyclopedia), previewing in Summer 2024. ORVIE is now recruiting authors for entries on all aspects of innovation in the Ohio River Watershed including: Cincinnati (OH) and Northern Kentucky; Ashland, Lexington, Louisville, Maysville, Owensboro and Paducah (KY); Columbus, Dayton, Marietta, Portsmouth, and Steubenville (OH); Evansville, Madison and Indianapolis (IN), Pittsburgh (PA), Charleston, Huntington, Parkersburg, and Wheeling (WV), Cairo (IL), and Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville (TN). If you would like to be involved in ORVILLE or ORVIE, please contact Paul Tenkotte at tenkottep@nku.edu.

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