He won the very first Belgian Club Knock Out in 2019. Was on the podium together with multiple European-Tour winner Guido Migliozi. Played Rinkven in the footsteps of the pros and is all set, after a year of silence, to defend his title in 2021. A conversation with Thibault Goemans.
We meet for a WAMP-match at Rinkven, the club that immediately evokes the most beautiful memories for him.
TG: It was the best thing an amateur golfer could ever experience. We were welcomed as real pros, we shared the dressing rooms with the big names like Bernd Wiesberger and Chris Wood, we ate together in the lounge. Fantastic.
WAMP: How did you qualify?
TG: So, first you had to win the Knock Out in your own club. With a few exceptions, all the clubs in Belgium participated. My club is Rigenée. So I had to win five matches there and then I was allowed to go to Rinkven to compete for the title at the European Tour tournament against the sixty-three other amateur golfers who had won at their club. The eight lowest scores played the quarterfinals. I finished third. The quarterfinal was a smooth victory. However, the semi-final had been a lot tougher, as I was playing against the best player (HCP 1) in the field. Score: +5 for him and 0 for me, nevertheless, it was only during the last 2 holes that he started playing less than before. An exciting semi-final I must admit. The final round went well. On the penultimate hole I was six strokes ahead. But then, on seventeen, I hit the ball left into the woods. I hit a second ball, right in the middle of the fairway and hoped my first one would not be found. However, the fans decided otherwise. They found my first ball in a completely unplayable spot. I had to play along another fairway to get out of the woods. Disaster. On the last hole my lead had shrunk to two, and there again I hit into the woods. Fortunately, so did my opponent, and I ended up winning by one stroke.
WAMP: The eight finalists were all single handicaps. Did higher handicaps not stand a chance?
TG: Yes, they did. Certainly in the club phase. But at the BCKO itself, among all those pros, nerves will have counted. And the fact that it was always nine holes of stroke play. Every stroke counts, and a low handicapper is more likely to go completely wrong on a hole.
WAMP: Have you been playing golf since you were a kid?
TG: No. Didn’t start until I was about sixteen. My dad had won a six-month membership and thought it might be something for the family. At first I wasn’t keen to play at all. You know, golf was not very well known amongst youth. The whole environment was made for older people. Your friends at school didn’t golf. Golf wasn’t “cool”.
WAMP: It is now?
TG: It has improved fiercely. Clubs are doing more for their youth players. Fun camps and fun activities. That’s good. But also, a guy like Thomas Pieters, he captures the imagination of the youth. Cool guy. I’m a junior captain myself now. I hear what those kids say. It resonates with them. The federation is also making a great effort. Golf is becoming less VIP and more hip. Every Wednesday afternoon at Rigenée we have the ‘apero des jeunes’, with music on the driving range. That makes it all a little more accessible for them.
WAMP: Are you preparing yourself to defend your title?
TG: No. You have to be enormously lucky. Like right now, for example. (Indeed, your interviewer on duty has just decided the match with a win by a par through the bushes, while Thibault misses his birdie. 3-2, thanks partially to the number of strokes WAMP generously grants me). I just play an enormous amount. As much as my work – and my loved one – allow me. Can I make another suggestion for you guys?
TG: You guys should have another format on the WAMP app, that a group of friends can play their own league. Then the app will be used more often.
WAMP: Oh, but you can. You just have to send an email to WAMP and ask the question to have your own league. Even in America there are groups of golfers playing like this with WAMP. It costs you five hundred euros and we even put your logo on it. Some are smart enough to have themselves sponsored by a company or the business where they go for food and drinks together. It’s all possible. You just make a table, like a billiard club. Everyone plays against each other one time. Whoever has the most points at the end is the winner.
WAMP: Thanks for the tip anyway, Thibault, and hopefully for you: better luck with the BCKO2021 than today here at Rinkven.
TG: (laughs) Will do!