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May 6 2011

11:07 PM

Thompson helps tornado victims

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By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The hounds-tooth pattern is a shout-out to the legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant.

The sentiment behind the ribbons, though, is strictly for the thousands of people who were impacted by the devastating tornadoes that tore through the southeast last week.

PGA TOUR rookie Michael Thompson decided to ask his fellow players to show their support by wearing the ribbons at this week's Wells Fargo Championship. He's a 2008 graduate of Alabama, which is in Tusacaloosa, one of the hardest hit areas, and he now makes his home in Birmingham.

"I just thought it would be a great way, especially with it being a big event, to kind of open some eyes and keep everyone aware of what's going on in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and pretty much everywhere in the south," Thompson said. "It's still really bad."

So Thompson and his wife, Rachel, went to a fabric store in Charlotte Monday night and bought a yard of the black-and-white hounds-tooth material. They went back to the room and cut the fabric into strips, then folded them into ribbons and fastened them with pins.

Thompson left the ribbons in a bowl in the locker room at Quail Hollow this week. Beside the bowl was a hand-written note asking his fellow players to consider wearing them and making a donation to www.givetuscaloosa.com.

"I've seen a lot of guys wearing the ribbons, which I'm happy about," Thompson said. "I actually need to make some more tonight."

Thompson saw the devastation wrought by the twisters first-hand when he drove home to Birmingham after missing the cut at last week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Along the way, he stopped in Tuscaloosa.

"It literally looks like bombs went off," Thompson said. "It's just like a whole line. It just keeps on going for miles and miles. I went to school there so a lot of those shops and shopping centers that were hit, I can remember going and hanging out with friends there; going to the bowling alley that was destroyed.

"It's just hard to imagine -- something that big and that quick, the people there didn't have enough time like a hurricane where you can leave and evacuate."

Thompson was in school at Alabama when Hurricane Katrina cut a path or destruction across the Gulf Coast so last week's tragedy hit even closer to home.

"When I came back (to school after Katrina), the houses weren't completely destroyed but they weren't liveable," Thompson recalled. "That’s the way it is in Tuscaloosa and north of Birmingham. It's just really sad." 

Thompson, who posted his best finish of the season when he tied for 14th in Puerto Rico, stopped a string of three straight missed cuts on Friday with a 69 at Quail Hollow. That means he'll get his fifth paycheck of the season -- and there will be a little extra cash to help the tornado victims.

"Now that I've made the cut, and I'm really happy about that, I'm actually planning on donating some of my winnings," Thompson said with a big smile. "... It's just a way for me to kind of get involved. I know the PGA TOUR is all about charity and this is a great way to get my career started with charity."

Thompson said he and two other former Crimson Tide golfers, Jason Bohn and Dicky Pride, are talking about having a charity event in the fall. In the meantime, though, he's happy to make more hounds-tooth ribbons.

"Right now, it's what can I do to help? There's not a whole lot I can do physically," Thompson said. "But I know now that I'm on the PGA TOUR there's a whole lot I can do financially and that's what I'm hoping I can accomplish with bringing some awareness with these ribbons."

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