By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- Nicholas Thompson was doing the dad thing, which made it all the more surreal when his cell phone began cooking. The text messages from friends were terrible: there was blood in the halls at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School -- his high school -- and people were dying.
The Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Famer was jolted to learn of a former MSDHS student returning to the south Florida school to shoot and kill 17 people on Feb. 14.
Initially frozen by the news, Thompson snapped into action before going to bed that night.
He and his wife, Christen -- also a MSDHS graduate -- launched a mission.
Using school colors, they used silver and maroon ribbons to fashion some 400 pinned broaches for golfers at this week’s Honda Classic PGA Tour event, which began Thursday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., near their home and about a 45-minute drive from their alma mater in Parkland, Fla., outside of Miami.
The Thompsons also ordered some 8,000 maroon wristbands to distribute to patrons of the golf tournament in exchange for donations that will benefit the families of victims of the shooting. Those bands say “#MSD Strong” on one side and “Eagle Pride” on the other.
Moved by one of those life moments that he may never forget where he was and what he was doing at the time, Thompson failed to qualify Monday to play in the Honda Classic, but he’s at the tournament working nonetheless.
He didn’t turn on the news, or research the shooting for hours, because he was occupied with four-year-old son Nicholas and nine-month-old Luke, but it’s burned on his brain.
“I was at home, and I had a whole bunch [of texts]. It was definitely one of those moments [you’ll long remember,” Thompson said. “I have a four-year-old. I didn’t want him ... he didn’t need to see that [on TV] …
“After he went to sleep, I read on it, and it was that evening that my wife and I said that we should try to do something. The next morning we ordered the bands and made the ribbons.”
PGA officials are allowing Thompson, who played at Tech from 2001-05 and was part of an ACC championship team and two NCAA runner-up squads, to work a booth at the PGA National course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., just minutes from his home.
He also started a GoFundMe account that will merge with a similar account started by Broward County Public Schools to benefit victims.
“We’re doing this to get funds, but it’s also for awareness,” said Thompson, who grew up in nearby Coral Springs. “The Honda Classic is allowing us to do the ribbons for hats or collars. There are 400 ribbons for 144 players, 144 caddies and wives. We want to help with all the kids that were in it, counseling, and people affected.”
Golf has long been a family affair among the Thompsons. His sister, Lexi, in 2007 became the youngest golfer to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open at 12 years, 4 months and one day. She turned pro at age 15 in 2010, and in 2011 because the youngest to win on Tour, capturing the Navistar LPGA Classic at 16 years, seven months and eight days of age.
Just 23, she's won nine times on the LPGA Tour.
Their brother Curtis is on the Web.com Tour after playing on scholarship at LSU.
Thompson was inducted into the Tech Hall of Fame in the fall of 2016.
He graduated in 2005 with a degree in management, won an ACC Post-Graduate Scholarship award, and was a GCAA All-America Scholar for the second time in addition to earning All-ACC honors three times, two honorable mention All-America honors and third- and second-team All-America honors.
Now, aiding the victims and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting is a family affair.
The high school is a touchstone, a landmark in his life. While in high school, Thompson knew of football coach Aaron Feis, who died after stepping in front of students to shield them from gunfire.
Nick and Christen have common concerns.
“It could be my kids when they’re in school,” he said. “The football coach, coach Feis, was two years older than me. I didn’t know him personally, but we had mutual friends.”