IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Jed Thomas sinks putts in the fall.
The same Jed Thomas — a Lake Forest High School senior — sinks basketball shots in the winter.
A standout golfer who’s also a fine point guard in hoops?
Normal is a very good hockey player ripping a lengthy drive off a tee. Or an ace tennis player with a two-handed backhand connecting for a triple down the right-field line in a pickup softball game at a family reunion.
“The best athlete on our team, in every way,” Scouts golf coach Jim Matheson says of the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Thomas, who pays attention to what reigning PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas does on golf courses and to what new Cleveland Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas does on basketball courts.
“Jed,” the coach adds, “hits it a long way. He has a power game, for sure. The shots he hits with his hybrid — they go as far as the shots others hit with a driver. Jed did a good job juggling his commitments to golf and basketball during the summer. [Scouts varsity basketball coach] Phil LaScala was great; he was on board with Jed playing both sports in the months leading up to the start of his senior year.”
After finishing runner-up, with a 75, at the North Suburban Conference Meet and shooting a 71 — one stroke behind medalist and 2017 LFHS graduate Jason Folker — at a Class AA regional at Lake Bluff Golf Club last fall, Thomas averaged 5.1 points, three rebounds and 1.8 assists for the school’s varsity basketball team in the 2016-17 season. He shot 54 percent from the field.
In the summer, in between rounds of golf, Thomas dished eight assists in a two-point loss to reigning Class 2A boys basketball state champion Orr High School on the home court. The game, dubbed Net Gain, doubled as a fundraiser, with a good chunk of the $30,000 earmarked for Orr’s basketball program (equipment, uniforms).
“It’s his athleticism,” Scouts senior golfer Connor Polender says of what separates Thomas from other elite golfers in the state. “All you need to do is look at his swing speed. You see that, and you think, ‘There’s an athlete.’ Jed hits it super long for a high school golfer.”
The son of Brandon Thomas, a former golfer at Brown University, Jed excelled in basketball and baseball (as a pitcher and a shortstop) before deciding to drop baseball in order to focus more on golf in the eighth grade.
“I felt then that I had a higher aptitude for golf than I did for baseball,” recalls Thomas, a Conway Farms Golf Club member who carded a medalist round of four-under-par 67 at an invitational held at Senica’s Deer Park Golf Club in Oglesby last month.
“What I like about golf is the opportunity to get better at it, and that’s there every day. I’m always striving to improve.”
Two seasons ago, during the Scouts’ run to a fifth-place showing at the 3A boys golf state tournament in Bloomington, Thomas shot an 81 at the Warren Regional. The score wasn’t good enough to qualify him for an individual sectional berth in Rockford, but he regrouped six days later and turned in a superb round of 70 — the lowest score among Scouts, who won the sectional meet by four strokes.
Among Thomas’ other highlights in a steady 2017 season: a 74, good for third place, at the Warren Invite at Bittersweet Golf Club in Gurnee; a 35 at the home course at Lake Bluff Golf Club; a runner-up round of 72 in a quad meet; and a medalist effort of 37 at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park.
“He’s got the athleticism, the competitiveness and the confidence,” Matheson says. “When all three of those come together for him and he’s on and dialed in on a golf course, Jed is as good as any golfer in the state.”
As a leader on another talent-laden squad this fall, Thomas’ style is a far away from rah-rah as the length of his typical hybrid shot.
“I’m low-key, and I try to set the pace with positive thinking,” says Thomas, who has received an offer from Bucknell University and is also considering Dartmouth College, among other schools. “I do what I can to encourage my teammates.”
Before joining his teammates for a dual with visiting Mundelein High School last week, Thomas checked out first-round action at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms on Sept. 14.
One Thomas watched another Thomas.
“Justin Thomas,” Jed Thomas said after the Scouts’ victory, “had a terrible lie on one hole, but he never changed the look on his face. Stoic … he was stoic, and he stayed stoic.
“What I also noticed, and what I also admired about Justin’s game, was his fearlessness. Other great golfers, like Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, play without fear.”
But can they deliver a right-on bounce pass on a fast break or hit a clutch shot from three-point range?
Notable: Lake Forest High School’s boys golf team placed third (303) at the Wheeling Wildcat Golf Invitational held at Countryside Golf Club in Mundelein on Sept. 16, behind junior Danny Fisher’s 10th-place 74. Senior teammate Connor Polender — who finished in third place at the 3A state tournament in 2015 — also carded a 74. Scores from seniors Scott Frevert (77) and Jed Thomas (78) also counted for LFHS. … Another contingent of Scouts competed at the Mustang Invite at Steeple Chase Golf Club in Mundelein, with Patrick Moorhead and Pierce Grieve each shooting a 75 to pace the Scouts’ third-place effort (308). … Fisher cruised to medalist honors with a 33 in Lake Forest High School’s 145-158 defeat of visiting Mundelein High School at Lake Bluff Golf Club on Sept. 14.