Olive Branch native Braden Thornberry made history after a four-stroke victory on Monday at the NCAA Championships at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
The sophomore earned his fifth win, 10th top-five finish of the 2016-2017 season and garnered Ole Miss’ first golf national title.
“It means a lot to be the champion,” Thornberry said.
Consistency played a vital role in Thornberry’s victory as he entered the final day in second place at 10-under par, two strokes behind Texas’ Scottie Scheffler.
However, when the DeSoto Central alumnus stepped up to the first tee, he had already taken the lead after a bogey and triple bogey by Scheffler on the first two holes.
Thornberry’s steady play included an impressive eagle on the par-4 sixth hole that ultimately moved him to win as collegiate golf’s best.
“I just stepped up there and ripped it,” Thornberry said.
With his win at Rich Harvest Farms, Thornberry joined an impressive list of past NCAA individual champions including Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
While Thornberry prepares for his PGA Tour debut next week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, he remains a front-runner in the Fred Haskins Award, presented to the most outstanding male collegiate golfer of the year, voted on by peers, coaches and golf media.
He also improved his Walker Cup stock thanks to an impressive five-stroke victory in February at the Jones Cup.
After qualifying for the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001, Ole Miss men’s golf finished 22 of 30 teams, capping off the best season in program history since 1984.
Both Thornberry and senior Ben Wolcott were named to the PING Southeast All-Region team after combining for six individual wins and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Austin Regional.
“As far as the team, we knew we were going to have a special year.” Thornberry said. “When we started off, we didn’t finish worse than second in the fall.”
Ole Miss ended one of the most successful seasons in school history with 19 total rounds under par, a program record, and 11 top five finishes, including four tournament wins.