Former NCAA National Champion Braden Thornberry has received another major accolade by winning the McCormack Medal, the most prestigious award an amateur golfer can win.
The USGA and the R&A announced Thornberry’s victory on Monday morning, confirming Thornberry as the No. 1 player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking following the conclusions of both the U.S. and European Amateur Championships.
The award, named after Mark H. McCormack, the late founder of IMG, has been taken home by some massive names since its inception in 2007, including Jon Rahm and Ollie Schneiderjans.
“This is a prestigious award, and I am honored to be among the group of past recipients,” Thornberry said. “There are many people who have made this possible along the way, and I am grateful to everyone. I am really excited about my future in the game of golf, and I hope to keep representing my country, my state and the University of Mississippi in the best way possible.”
The excitement around the program seems to be at a level rivaled only by that of Thornberry’s 2017 National Championship win. Head coach Chris Malloy said he believes he and the program have a generational player in Thornberry, and he heaped praise on the Ole Miss star.
“I don’t necessarily know that he has a ceiling,” Malloy said. “I’ve coached many talented players that were know-it-alls, that didn’t ask very good questions, weren’t interested in being coached. They were good players. They went on to be fine players. Then you have players that maybe didn’t have tons of talent but just worked their tails off, and they went off to be very good players. I think with Braden you have the whole package. He is the most coachable guy that I’ve had in my career, at the end of the day.”
As is the nature of the sport, coach Malloy was hesitant to make monumental statements about his expectations for the season, but the excitement is clear from all parties.
“And I think as a coach you almost have to reel expectations back a hair and focus on the process,” he said. “We have to focus on process with Braden and (on) controlling everything that he can control, rather than outcomes.”
Malloy said Thornberry works harder than any other golfer at improving his game and knows the areas in which he needs to improve.
“(Thornberry) asks the right questions,” Malloy said. “If he does those things, the results will take care of themselves, and he will be a better golfer this year than he was last year — than he was even the year before.”
Having Thornberry as a talisman for success in the Ole Miss Golf program is an important asset for the young players on the team. Malloy said that for those players, the chance to learn from someone of his quality is an advantage. He said Thornberry is talented not just on the course but also in the way he shares insights with other golfers.
“It’s got to mean the world to (them) that they’ve got a blueprint in front of them for what it takes to be the best amateur in the world and what it takes to be successful,” Malloy said. “Sometimes, your best player does all the right things himself, but sometimes, they’re so competitive (that) they’re not going to share their secrets of the trade with everybody else. Braden is an open book.”
Heading into the season, Thornberry is already quite literally at the top of the world (in rankings). However, this season is his chance to set the tone and prove that he’s yet to hit a ceiling of personal improvement heading into the 2019 U.S. Open and his PGA career.