“I was very close to giving it up” - Simon Thornton

Simon Thornton was on the verge of quitting the game just a fortnight before winning his maiden European Tour title. Picture ©Getty ImagesSimon Thornton is floating on air right now but Ireland’s latest European Tour winner revealed yesterday how that he was contemplating quitting the tour grind for good just two weeks before his breakthrough victory on father’s day.

The 36-year old Yorkshire-born, former Royal County Down assistant professional, made seven visits to the Q-School and won and lost his card twice before holding his nerve to beat South African Tjaart Van der Walt at the first extra hole to win dual ranking Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open in St Omer less than a fortnight ago.

“I was very close to giving it up,” said Thornton, whose gesture of dedicating his victory to his late father was echoed by Justin Rose in the US Open at Merion a few hours later.

“I know we all go through it, maybe not of giving up the game, but we all far out of love with it at times. Everybody goes to work and hates their days but it got to a stage where I was hating every day.

“It hit me the winter before last. It was almost, ‘that’s enough for me’ kind of thing. I started looking for a few jobs and couldn’t find anything over the winter and thought I will play anyway and see what happens.

“I ended up speaking to Gary Murphy down here at Carton House two weeks ago at the Ronnie Whelan Charity Day and I said, ‘You know what Murf, I am ready for going.’ Two weeks later you win. Mad.”

There was no eureka moment for Thornton.

“No,” he said. “You see boys missing three or four cuts and then going out and winning. I didn’t miss for three or four weeks, I played alright. You just never know when your time is going to come.

“I am exempt now for the next 18 months, which is something I have never had before I can pick and choose what events I want to play. I’ve had a couple of tour cards before but this is a different category. To be able to plan is huge. To be able to plan what I want to do. I’ve never even been close to that before. This is different.”

Thornton earned € 83,330, the biggest cheque of his career, for his victory in France. It isn’t a huge amount of cash in world golf terms compared to the €333,330 the winner will take away from Carton House, but it’s massive for Thornton.

“For me, you always want to be able to go out and play not knowing what it is costing,” he said. “The Team Ireland Golf Trust has been fantastic for me, having that support right through my career.”

Now his biggest problem is deciding how to re-set his goals but he’s prepared to put that decision on the long finger and simply enjoy his new status.

“It’s hard to reset your goals,” he said. “Do I set the Top 60 in the Race to Dubai? Do I set winning again? What do you do? I have never been in this position before. I will give it a few weeks, play here, France and Scotland then take three or four weeks off and I will know more then.”

It’s been magical but often painful journey to the top for a player who was a seven handicapper when he first went over to work as an assistant under Kevan Whitson in the pro’s shop at Royal County Down.

Whatever about new goals, such as playing in Majors, he’s achieved every professional golfer’s dream.

“I am happy doing what I am doing,” he said.

Basking in the glow of a European Tour win is enough for him right now.