Ole Miss sophomore Braden Thornberry
(Ole Miss Athletics Photo)
(February 28, 2017) -- You would be hard pressed to find many players in the country playing better then Braden Thornberry
of the 18th ranked Ole Miss Rebels. In his last 11 starts for the Rebels, Thornberry has finished inside the top-10 eight-times and won or shared medalist honors five-times.
And if all that wasn't good enough, earlier this month the sophomore won the biggest tournament of his career when he captured the prestigious Jones Cup in wire-to-wire fashion.
However, the success at Ole Mis didn't come overnight for Thornberry. During the first semester of his freshman year, Thornberry had some difficulty finding his grove on the course and he finished outside the top-25 in four of five fall of 2015 events.
"I just had to learn to be at college and not freak out about doing stuff on your own," Thornberry, a three-time Rolex All-American said. "Just getting used to all the little stuff so it could get to the point where it was just all about the golf and you didn’t have to worry about everything else."
For Thornberry, things started to click during the holiday break between the fall and spring semesters of his freshman year when he won the Patriot All-American. From that point on there really hasn't been any slowing down Braden Thornberry.
After a tied for 30th finish at the Mobile Sports Authority Intercollegiate to start the spring semester of his freshman year, Thornberry finished as the low Rebel at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate beginning a run of five consecutive tournaments as the teams top finisher to close out the season. The run, which included a pair of medalist victories at the FAU Slomin Autism Invite and Old Waverly Invitational helped Thornberry set the stage for his already impressive sophomore campaign. A season that in six starts has been comprised of four top-10 finishes and three individual wins.
"At the [Seminole Intercollegiate last season] it was right before I won my first tournament and it is where I first got myself into contention and I didn’t handle it great," explained Thornberry. "But I realized that I was good enough to [compete] and that point right there is kind of what got me going."
Since coming to Ole Miss, Thornberry has seen his game steadily improve and credits the Rebel coaching staff, head coach Chris Malloy and assistant Kyle Ellis, for the improvements.
"[They have helped with] the little things. Practicing, my physical stuff is obviously there but just the little things like getting ready for a tournament mentally and physically," explained Thornberry who has shaved 3.5 strokes off of his scoring average from a year ago.
From Olive Branch, Miss., Thornberry was first recruited as an eighth grader by Ole Miss and it didn't take long for him to settle on the Rebels as his school of choice. After looking at other SEC schools such as Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, Thornberry committed to the Rebels between his freshman and sophomore years of high school.
"My whole family kind of has connections here. My parents went to Memphis but my aunt and uncle went here and my aunt was an Ole Miss Rebelette and my uncle played baseball and they have been bringing me down to football games for years," explained Thornberry. "There weren’t really a lot of questions."
There may not have been a lot of questions when it came to choosing a school, but there is one question that will likely follow Thornberry around for the next few months. Can he play himself onto the 2017 Walker Cup team?
Thornberry wasn't part of the 16 player December practice session but his Jones Cup victory in front of Walker Cup captain Spider Miller has certainly made him a real part of the discussion to make the 10 player team.
"I talked to coach Miller [at the Jones Cup] and he is really supportive and he seemed to like my game," Thornberry said. "It would be a big honor and hopefully I can have a good spring and get into both [the Walker Cup and Arnold Palmer Cup] and represent our country, not many people get to do it each year."
With that said Thornberry is trying not get too far ahead of himself. "I’m trying to take it just one tournament at a time and whether I’m in the conversation or not I’m going to just try and do my best each tournament."
A sound approach for one of the best in the college game.