How adoption gave Michael Thompson and his family life and love during the lockdown
One could argue Michael Thompson—and not Hideki Matsuyama—was the golfer hurt most by the Players Championship being canceled after one round due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Thompson trailed the Day 1 leader by five shots, but a bogey-free opening 68 at TPC Sawgrass had been the PGA Tour veteran’s best round during a difficult season, and much-needed proof his hard work was finally going to pay off. Instead, it was wiped from the record books.
“From my perspective, I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me, but at the same time, I know why,” Thompson said. “This is an unprecedented thing going on in our world and precautions needed to be taken. For me, I don’t have much to complain about.”
On the contrary, Thompson has plenty to be thankful for these days. While the 2013 Honda Classic winner may have lost some potentially lucrative tee times, he and his wife, Rachel, had something much more important on their schedules the following week. The couple, along with 3-year-old son Joshua, traveled to Topeka, Kan., to witness the induced birth of their adopted baby daughter, Laurel Marie.
“It’s really a joyous time for us,” Thompson said from an Airbnb house in Wichita where his newly formed foursome is hunkering down for the time being. “The birth mom was wonderful. She allowed my wife and I to be in the delivery room, and I even got to cut the umbilical cord.”
Suddenly, making cuts on tour didn’t seem so important.
“Knowing what was going to happen next week was very humbling and made golf less significant than we made it out to be,” Thompson said of the Players cancellation. “And with what’s going on with COVID-19, we kind of knew what road sports were going down with a lot of organizations canceling events. It turns out it was a good thing with how serious everything has gotten.”
The Thompsons’ story of welcoming life into the world is certainly refreshing during a dark time marked by disturbing death totals and rising coronavirus hospitalizations. But in addition to eagerly awaiting a return to normalcy in the world, the family is awaiting a return to their Sea Island home. Like many things around the country, the adoption process has slowed down during a global pandemic.
After being in Kansas for more than three weeks, Thomson says he expects to be there for about another two weeks while all the paperwork is finalized by various adoption and court staff forced to work from home. He says the same process took only two weeks total when the couple traveled to Kansas in 2016 to adopt their first child.
“I encourage anyone who is on the fence just to take that step,” Thompson said of the adoption process, which this time started for he and his wife last September. “It’s long, and can be stressful, but at the same time it’s so rewarding when you do get that child.”
Then there’s the matter of actually traveling back home.
The plan is to avoid major airports or possibly drive. But it’s a 17-hour trip by car—and that’s before factoring in having a newborn and a toddler in tow. In the meantime, the Thompsons are comfortable in a Wichita house they rented on Airbnb. And it’s easy for Michael to see the silver lining in the PGA Tour's break as he has some unexpected time off from his job.
“It’s been a blessing actually for me to be here, especially with our second, it’s been really good,” Thompson said. “And not having added stress of having to prepare for tournament golf. I wish I could be playing, but at the same time, I get to be home and doing late-night feedings and changing dirty diapers.”
Thompson has also found a temporary place to practice and a friend-of-a-friend’s nearby home gym to stay in shape during the day. Keeping the momentum he was building will be even more important if the soon-to-be 35-year-old is to keep his PGA Tour card when play resumes with a severely truncated schedule.
Although Thompson has certainly had a unique quarantine existence as far as pro golfers go, the 2012 U.S. Open runner-up isn’t the only PGA Tour player with adopted children. Most notably, Bubba Watson and his wife, Angie, have a pair of their own, including a first, Caleb, who they met just 13 days before Bubba’s first of two Masters victories.
Watson has been open about the couple’s sometimes rocky adoption journey that included three devastating late rejections from birth moms (In the U.S. adoption process, the birth mother chooses the adopting parents) before finally finding success twice. Knowing that was a possible outcome, Thompson says he and Rachel kept their adoptions a secret from family members until everything was official. But after going through years of struggling with fertility issues, they couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out.
“I think we kind of had to go through that in order to solidify or truly know that adoption was the right plan for us. We’re so happy that we did," Thompson said. “I think the greatest thing about adoption is it’s one of the ultimate signs of love to bring somebody who’s not your own blood into your family and raise them. It’s hard to put it into words. My biggest fear as a father was not bonding with the child, whoever that was. As most parents know, as soon as you hold that baby, in your arms, it’s instant love. And it was the same for me even though my kids are not biologically my own, they’re still my kids. It’s just a really awesome experience.”
And the type of really awesome story we could all use a bit more of right now.