Humanity and Humility are Hallmarks of Leadership For Charlotte Thomas

The fallacy about first impressions is that everybody can fake it for a minute or two. Seldom do first impressions capture an individual’s true essence, the depth and complexity that make us all human. Impressions, first or otherwise, are just that: snapshots, frozen instances in time. The full measure of a person is who they are around the clock.

According to those who know her best, second-year LPGA Tour player Charlotte Thomas wouldn’t need to worry about not making a great first, second or third impression. The 27-year-old is selfless, humble, inquisitive, and empathetic all the time. It’s her nature. It’s who she is.

You can ask anyone, like then Assistant Coach of Washington University’s Women’s Golf program Andrea VanderLende who knew she had met not only one of her players, but one of the program’s captains when recruiting Charlotte. “ potentially be our next team captain,” VanderLende said. “You’re always scouting who’s going to be on the team when they come in. Sometimes they grow into those roles and sometimes it’s very obvious right away. You’re always looking for those kinds of people on your team.”

That certainty, to have Charlotte on her team based on her personality and charm, nearly faded when VanderLende went to watch her play.

“The funny piece is that when Charlotte came, we chatted for three or four hours and it was her first unofficial visit on campus,” said Coach Mary Lou Mulflur, Washington’s Head Women’s golf coach. “We were blown away by her maturity. When she left, we said, ‘We need that girl on our team.’ But we hadn’t watched her play. I sent Andrea (VanderLende) to watch her and Andrea wasn’t that impressed with her game. So, we formulated this email to Charlotte saying that ‘We really like you, but your game is not where it needs to be for a program like this.’ It was basically a letter that said you’re not good enough.”

Charlotte’s response only tugged on Coach Mulflur’s gut all the more.

“Her email back was basically, ‘Okay fine, well, I’ll show you.’ It was just the perfect response you would want from a player.”

Forbes magazine lists 10 perspectives on what it means to be a great leader.

They include: making hard choices, knowing that people are the key to success, serving a greater cause, and focusing on helping the team. All of those fit Charlotte.

In June, during a month when Charlotte would otherwise be celebrating all things PRIDE, she instead brushed up on her history to fully support the black-lives-matter movement that took America by storm after George Floyd’s death. She pledged to donate $10 a day to black organizations fighting injustices. And earlier this year, the then LPGA rookie, along with LPGA sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda, pledged to help fund the various organizations battling Australia’s horrendous bushfires.

Serving a greater cause? Check.

How about making the hard choices?

Charlotte Thomas of Washington reacts after sinking a putt on the 15th hole during the final round of the 2016 NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship

In 2016, Charlotte and her Washington Huskies won their hard-fought battle to claim the NCAA national title. They had just beaten Virginia and UCLA and were on their way to compete against Stanford. The night before the finals, the Huskies gathered with their coaches and volunteers in one of their hotel rooms to assign players to their spots in the match-play lineup. Conventional wisdom is to put the best player out last in the anchored spot. Charlotte was the hand’s down choice. She had been playing well and had represented England at the Curtis Cup and won.

But Charlotte felt something different inside her.

“Charlotte had played for the Curtis Cup and for her country, so we were going to put her out last,” said Mulflur. “And Charlotte, God love her, she spoke up and said, ‘I don’t want to be last.’ I think she was struggling a little bit with her confidence and she just said I don’t want to play in that position. She said, ‘I’ll play wherever you want me to play, but I don’t want to be in the last spot.’

“The courage that it takes for somebody to say that in that situation with that on the line--that tells you everything you need to know about Charlotte. She is going to do what she believes is best for everybody, not just herself. And people might say, ‘Oh, that’s the easy way out,’ but most people would’ve just kept their mouths shut and figured out a way to get it done.

“It showed her willingness to be humble and it showed how much confidence she had in her teammates. She is a giver by nature.”
Charlotte Thomas of England lines up a putt on the 9th Beach Course hole during Day Two of the ISPS Handa Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Club

So, making the hard choice and focusing on making the team better? Check. Check.

How about knowing that people are the key to success?

Maybe her empathy for others stems from her having been exposed to different cultures from a young age. After growing up in England, her father accepted a new position that took Charlotte’s family to Singapore where she studied at an international school until high school. Then, after living in New York for a bit, her brothers’ studies in Australia inspired her parents to buy a house there last year. Originally from New Zealand, her mom is why all of the Thomas kids are allowed to have dual citizenship. Her golf career also took her to China before nesting in Seattle for college. She now lives in Arizona.

Speaking about her cosmopolitan lifestyle, Charlotte says, “It’s definitely made me aware. I went to a school [in Singapore] with 60 nationalities and none of them made up more than 3% of the school’s population so it was very diverse. So that made me very aware of cultural differences. My school was about celebrating different cultures.”

“She was asked to speak at a dinner for our Scholarship donors,” says Coach Mulflur. “And she absolutely wowed the room. She understood what it meant for the people in that room to hear from her and her story and how much they gave would impact everybody. She knew what was going on. A lot of kids, they don’t know, you know, they get asked to speak and say ‘blah, blah, blah,’ but she really connected with the donors on their level of what it means to give and if you look at what she’s doing now, makes total sense.”

“It’s her whole family, too,’” VanderLande adds. “We always say ‘you recruit the kid, you recruit the family.’ Her family is awesome.”

“Her parents are also very giving,” Mulflur said. “I think Charlotte was taught very young to look for ways she could help. I think it was part of the way she was brought up. Her parents are always looking for ways to help people. They want everyone to feel that warmth and openness. I think she realizes the platform that she has. She sees that almost as not something that she has to do but wants to do. And I think she is grateful for the opportunity to be able to do things with her platform. She always wanted to help people. As you’re seeing now, on a larger scale.”

Whether you meet her on the golf course or come across one of her latest fundraising campaigns, when it comes to Charlotte Thomas, it doesn’t matter what kind of first impression she makes, because whatever it is, it’ll be a lasting one.