Thistleton returns with a bang

Mark Thistleton
Mark Thistleton
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Mark Thistleton believes he has rekindled his old competitive instincts after roaring back from a five-year absence to star for Hampshire in their opening league fixture of the campaign.

The Hayling scratch golfer answered new captain Steve Williams’ request to return to the county ranks, having last turned out in 2009.

But the 32-year-old, who enjoyed an impressive amateur career and cut his handicap to as low as plus four at one stage, felt his game was not quite good enough to cut it as a professional and instead walked away from top-level competitive golf.

Now, after forging a career at Taylor Made and returning to the county scene, the Fareham-based golfer has made an unbeaten start – winning both of his matches in the 6-6 draw with Dorset at Weymouth – and is enjoying the buzz again.

Thistleton said: ‘I just thought I didn’t want to hole six-footers for my living!

‘I was a bit older than a lot of the guys I was competing against and I had to make the decision on whether I took the jump to turn professional or get a job.

‘So I got a job with Taylor Made and pretty quickly made my mind up that I wasn’t going to get back to turn pro.

‘At the time I was in the England squad with a lot of good players who have gone on to do well.

‘I was with the likes of Dan Willett, Chris Wood and David Horsey who have all won events on the European Tour.

‘I even played with Rory McIlroy back in 2007 just before he turned pro, so I played with the best players around.

‘And I thought I was just falling a bit short of that standard.

‘I don’t regret it.

‘I gave it a good go and travelled around the world playing golf.

‘I feel like I’m doing the next best thing. I just do it for fun now.’

Thistleton, who rejoined Hayling in October, is harsh on his own ability considering he is a previous winner of the Selborne Salver, Lagonda Trophy, once led the qualifying at the British Amateur Championships, and was in the mix for the 2009 Walker Cup squad.

But with Williams wanting more experience in his ranks for this season, Thistleton was tempted to return.

He said: ‘I wasn’t intending to play for Hampshire this year but I thought I would get back to playing a bit more regularly.

‘A year ago I thought I would never play at that sort of level again.

‘But Steve Williams asked me to play in a friendly match against the Channel Islands and I really enjoyed competing.

‘I played really well, won both my games and he asked me to play in the first league match so I agreed.

‘Now I’ve played six games for Hampshire – although four of them were friendlies – and I haven’t lost a game 

‘I’ve had a pretty good start but maybe it helps that I’m playing with a bit more freedom.’

Thistleton’s Hayling club-mate, Darren Walkley, and Rowlands Castle pair Tom Robson and Mark Sawford also featured in a tight tussle that ended honours even in Weymouth.

The county host Kent at Blackmoor next weekend.