UNCP's Thompson Turning Dreams Into Reality At The Golf Channel

UNCP's Thompson Turning Dreams Into Reality At The Golf Channel

ORLANDO, Fla. – As a 10-year old breaking into the game of golf at Seven Lakes Country Club in central North Carolina, UNCP senior Savannah Thompson never imagined she would one day be shown "Dufnering" on live television from the Golf Channel studios over 500 miles and three states to the south.

Thompson's desire to work for the only 24-hour golf network in the world began at the age of sixteen when she had the opportunity to play at a course that has hosted six men's major championships and was once voted Golf Digest's No. 1 Golf Course in America.

"I played in the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in California and Golf Channel was there broadcasting the entire tournament," Thompson recalled. "At the time, I found it more fun and interesting to hang out in the Golf Channel booth than have crowds watching my every shot."

For starters, when Thompson first picked up a golf club some 11 years ago, five-time PGA Tour winner Jason Dufner was still one-year away from becoming a regular at the game's highest level.

The fad coined "Dufnering" came about in March of 2013 when a photo of the Cleveland, Ohio native slumping without expression went viral. And while Thompson admits it was fun to be in front of a rolling camera, that one experience sitting against a wall is just one of many that will shape her future career in golf.

The Seven Lakes native first planted a seed at the Golf Channel in 2014 when she was a part of a feature for the First Tee. Thompson and the Golf Channel producer expressed mutual interest in a potential internship down the road, but it was a phone call two years later that flipped the switch from a dream to a reality.

"I remember getting a call from the Golf Channel right before golf practice (in the spring of 2017) informing me I was their new instruction intern," Thompson said. "That is a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life."

"I am so happy for Savannah with her internship at the Golf Channel," UNCP head golf coach David Synan said. "She is going places professionally and I could not be happier for her. Savannah represents our UNCP golf family extremely well on and off the course."

When Thompson wrapped up her junior season at UNCP with an impressive five top-20 finishes, she packed her bags and trekked to Orlando to begin what she hopes will lead to a full-time job in the Sunshine State after her final year in Pembroke.

"I love living in Orlando and I never want to leave," Thompson added. "There are so many cool attractions and restaurants around me. During my short time here, I've already been to Disney World, Universal and Sea World."

A typical show day for the instruction intern comes with a 7:30 a.m. crew call and a jam-packed schedule until the end of the day. You could find Thompson working behind-the-scenes on some of Golf Channel's most prominent shows, including School of Golf, The Golf Fix and Morning Drive alongside the best on-air golf talent in the world.

"I am usually collecting video, helping the editor put the pieces together and even assisting the social media team with content for Twitter," Thompson said. "On non-show days, I am looking for video for future shows or making research packets."

One of Thompson's promo videos she compiled will even be used on the show sometime this summer.
"The coolest thing I've done during my time at the Golf Channel is producing a promo alone with the editor," Thompson stated. "It was very satisfying to see my promo come together in the end."

While the actual work during the internship has been rewarding for Thompson, it has also led to a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences away from set. Earlier this summer, the most recognizable trophy in the game of golf made a stop by the Golf Channel studios and did not go unnoticed by Thompson.

The Claret Jug, awarded once a year to the winner of The Open and Champion Golfer of the Year, has been hoisted by numerous hall-of-famers since 1872, including Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. In addition, future hall-of-famers Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth can all find their name etched in the 5.5-pound trophy.

"Getting to see the Claret Jug in person was a surreal moment," Thompson acknowledged. "Just looking at all the players who won and imagining them holding it was really cool. I can't believe I got to be in the presence of such a historic trophy."

As Thompson's summer internship comes to a close and she reports back to Pembroke to don the Black & Gold one last season, she can confidently look back and know playing golf at UNCP helped prepare her for a career in golf and her experiences this summer will only make her a better golfer going into her senior season.

"Playing golf for three going on four years at UNCP teaches you to make friends and talk with people you normally wouldn't because you have to spend four hours with them on the course," Thompson said. "So when I got to the Golf Channel, it was easy to meet my coworkers and make new friends that I will have for a lifetime.

"This internship has helped me improve my game because I work with the instruction department and get to hear great tops from the world's best coaches on a daily basis," she added.

From sitting in a golf cart watching her dad and picking up a club herself for the first time in 2006 to traveling across the country to tee it up at Pebble Beach and back to UNC Pembroke for collegiate golf, Thompson has stayed true to her dream and has no plans to stop now.

"This summer has been a great learning experience and I wouldn't be here today without the unwavering support of the mass communications and athletic departments at UNCP," Thompson said. "I am living out my dream and making the most of it because not many people have this opportunity in front of them."