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VOL. 133 | NO. 118 | Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Ole Miss’ Thornberry Eyes U.S. Open As Contender

By Don Wade

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Last June, Braden Thornberry made his PGA Tour debut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and acquitted himself so well that he placed fourth – the highest finish by an amateur in the event since 1965. Thornberry received an exemption to enter this year’s tournament and finished in a tie for 26th.

But he also shot a four-under 66 in the second round and a 5-under 65 in the third round and was 4-under for the weekend. Again, he looked like he belonged.

“My good golf is really good right now,” said Thornberry, who is from Olive Branch and is a rising senior at Ole Miss. “So that’s a positive.”

Braden Thornberry, a rising senior at Ole Miss and the No. 2 amateur golfer in the world, finished the FedEx St. Jude Classic in a tie for 26th place on Sunday, June 10. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

Little can be said about Thornberry’s game that isn’t positive. He has made the cut in three of the four pro events he has entered and this coming weekend he will play in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills after making it through sectional qualifying.

Thornberry is the No. 2 amateur in the world, but this time next week he will be No. 1 because the top amateur, Texas grad Doug Ghim, is turning pro after the U.S. Open. Thornberry has played politician when asked about whether he would return to Ole Miss, saying in advance of the FESJC, “I haven’t made a sure-fire decision.”

But he also said he believes the next golf season at Ole Miss could be special and he would like to be a part of it. He elaborated a little more after his final round at the FESJC. He says his performance in pro events hasn’t surprised him, he isn’t in a rush to turn pro, and what’s not to like about life at Ole Miss?

On the other hand, what is there left to prove? He holds the school record with 11 individual victories. And he won the 2017 Haskins Award, which honors the most outstanding male collegiate golfer.

“It’s always a little bit of a shock to come out right away and be up on the leaderboard in a pro tournament,” Thornberry said.” At the same time, when I take a step back, this golf really isn’t any different than high-level amateur golf. I’ve said it before, golf is golf. The ball doesn’t know who’s hitting it.

“I expected to play well. The plan I have in place is the plan I’m going to stick to. I like everything about college golf. Getting to Ole Miss, the facilities that we have, the coaching that we have, it’s really just a place to get better while not having a lot of pressure on you.

“That’s kind of my main reason (for not turning pro yet). I’ve been in school and enjoying it with my friends, and at the same time getting more prepared to come out here in the future.”

Now it’s on to the U.S. Open. Thornberry intends to enjoy the experience and his intention was to go easy on the practice rounds based on advice from pros telling him that’s a common mistake before a major – doing too much and being worn out when stepping to the first tee on Thursday.

He also isn’t counting himself out of anything.

“A lot of the greats have played as an amateur in the U.S. Open, so that will be really cool,” he said, adding, “I don’t really ever play a golf tournament that I’m not trying to win. I plan to get up there and put myself in contention.

“Qualifying for the U.S. Open, knowing there’s a lot of pros that didn’t, that helps. I earned a spot there.”

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