LIFE, according to the late Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, “imitates art far more than art imitates life”.
When the name Gary Thompson comes up, people almost immediately think of Gary Thompson and Associates – the company that was a household name in the marketing and advertising world back in the nineties.
What the majority are probably unaware of is that Thompson (49) is a seasoned golfer, with over two decades worth of experience and at one time was dubbed as a golden talent.
However, after winning “almost all local junior tournaments”, his stock fell dramatically and the dream to turn pro vanished. Thompson seems to have found solace in administering rather than playing the game, and currently serves as president of the Zimbabwe Professional Golfers Association.
“My late father (Craig) was a great golfer, in fact he won the Rhodesia Open back in the day,” said Thompson.“Like many young people, you watch your father and try to copy what he does.
“I was one of the best golfers of my time and could out swing, out-practice anybody and everybody at my prime.“I got a rotary golf scholarship to go to the United States soon after my primary and secondary education at Marlborough High School.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t play well enough to turn pro, at my time in the United States, and so l decided to return home where I thought I could make a better impact and achieve a lot more from a business point of view.”
In business, just like in golf, Thompson started off on a high but things have since taken a turn for the worse. “At the peak of my powers I was worth roughly US$2 million, but now I am in the red.
“The economy has not been kind to me as I have had to liquidate and sell some of my properties after I lost some accounts and some deals went bad,” said the charismatic advertising agent.
Thompson’s business premise – which sits on a two acre property located along Harare Drive – used to be home to nearly a hundred workers but now has more empty offices than those with occupants.
“I used to have roughly 96 people on my staff, but that has been trimmed down to about 15. Those that remain are mostly people I started off with, my current receptionist is a guy who used to caddy for me,” Thompson revealed.
“When people see me walking around, they think that I am still living the high life but that couldn’t be further from the truth.“Like everybody else, I struggle to put food on my table and have been forced to cut down on the luxuries.”
Amid the doom on the business front, Thompson finds some relief when playing the sport he loves even though doing so also comes with some financial strain.
“For me to participate in the Zimbabwe Open last weekend, I had to buy four second hand golf balls, which is all I could afford, and used to prepare and to play in the Open.
“My wife (Paola) is always telling to get a real job and try my luck elsewhere but I remain steadfast that things will get better soon,” he said.
Thompson has a unique way of looking at life. “Life is pretty much like golf,” he said.“I did not perform badly during the Open, but I shot a double eagle at one hole and then followed it up with a double bogey.
“That is what life is like, and that was the difference maker; one minute you are up there and the next you are down.”Thompson is determined to make a mark both on the golf course and in business.
“I see myself playing more the role of a statesman than anything else.“I want to rebuild my business empire, while at the same time l help mould the next generation of Zimbabwean golfers.
‘It’s sad that we have not had a local winning the Zim Open for almost two decades and as the ZPGA president I want to help facilitate the growth and expansion of the sport locally.“That means more games for the locals, as it is the only way we can get better,” he said.