COUNTY Durham’s No 1 amateur for the past few years is set to embark on his first season as a professional – and he has been helped along by the public.

Rhys Thompson has used crowdfunding website GoFundme as part of his preparations for going full-time, while he has gained support from sponsors, friends and family.

The three-time winner of the Durham County Golf Union will head to Formby Hall next Tuesday to prepare for the first stage of qualifying for the EuroPro Tour – a stepping stone to the Challenge and European Tours – which begins the next day.

He certainly has time on his side having only turned 22 in August but he does not want to mess around, knowing he has the ability to really attack the EuroPro scene.

“I spoke to my mam and dad, my coach, about whether the timing was right,” said Thompson, who graduated from University of Lancashire with a degree in golf management.

“I know I will not get anything out of playing another year as an amateur. I want to go for it, I’m seeing if I can get sponsors, got a few already, I made my decision in January/February time.

“I set up a GoFund me account not so long ago, as a long shot really and it has done really well. Better than I had hoped so far. I have raised around £1000 already.

“I am getting a lot of feedback from it. Companies have given me some money for entry fees, and I can give them logos, so it’s been good so far. I must thank those people who have got involved already. At the minute I have got four starts, four entry fees covered, I have expenses paid for too.”

Thompson is also going to continue to work on a part-time basis in golf operations at Slaley Hall, where he is attached and coached by Steve Fawcitt. His education and knowledge of the game should stand him in good stead, although he is desperate to shine on the course above all.

Thompson, who has learned his trade at Boldon, South Tyneside, is heading into 2018 on the back of a memorable previous 12 months. As well as hitting the Order of Merit top spot again, he won the Northern Counties Big Six at Delamere and the Ravensworth Bowl.

He appeared in the English Men’s Amateur Championship, finished tied eighth in the Brabazon Trophy after finishing on three under after four rounds and won the Boldon Scratch Open.

Thompson said: “I was consistent last season, I held my own in the bigger events, pulled it together in the bigger events. I seemed to be more consistent than I have before and that was the big thing. I posted some good scores, in the past it was one good round, but last year I seemed to play three or four good rounds. That was really good for me.

“I used to do a lot in a short space of time and I am determined to manage things better going into a pro career because I was fatigued at the back end of last year. I needed the rest and I have had that.

“I was looking on and a couple of lads I know like Adam Chapman and James Simpson did quite well on the EuroPro, I played a few times with them. If they are doing quite well then it has given me a push to do the same.”

After the qualifying events, which will determine what card and how many events Thompson plays in, the EuroPro Tour starts for real on May 16-18 at Frilford Heath in the shape of the Matchroom Sports Championship. He has been putting more work into his game in the gym than he has before in preparation.

Thompson said: “It’s a good step to take. I would have liked to go abroad, but the EuroPro Tour have the biggest prize money. I am determined to do well at the second qualifier, that’s the goal.

“I have been going to the gym a lot since the end of last season. I do that five or six days a week in Washington. Everything has changed because of it: my routines have changed, how to prepare for events, when I get there I am more subtle. I feel more powerful and have greater endurance, it’s definitely helped me and improved my confidence.”

n If you are interested in sponsoring Rhys, contact 07793025865 or go to his GoFund me page.