Thornberry Playing his Best Golf by Feeding off Confidence
Feb. 16, 2017

By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com

Braden Thornberry teed off in the final round of the Jones Cup, it was an undoubtedly big moment. The Ole Miss sophomore was attempting to finish off a wire-to-wire victory in one of golf’s most prestigious and competitive amateur tournaments.

Three holes and two birdies later on that Sunday, Thornberry made it clear that he was the best golfer there.

“I got off to a good start and went from there,” said the Southaven, Mississippi native. “If you’re playing well and get off to a good start, it seems pretty easy.

“I put my game up with anyone in the country right now. I’m pretty confident in it. “

He has every reason to be confident. No player in a field consisting of 27 GolfStat.com’s top-100 finished the tournament closer than five strokes to Thornberry. He recorded the best round by any player with a 67 to open the tournament and never looked back.

“When he opened up that lead, all the guys here said the same thing,” Ole Miss head coach Chris Malloy said. “He’s got that confidence going. He’s not going to think about holding on to the lead. He’s thinking about extending that lead. He’s pretty dangerous once he gets a lead because he doesn’t normally let those go.”

That confidence is something has continued to grow for Thornberry since arriving on campus. Just like any freshman, he needed a period to settle in.

“Starting out freshman year, everyone questions a little bit going into it whether they’re good enough,” Thornberry said. “Getting a couple wins really helps the mindset going forward.”

During the break between the fall and spring slates his freshman year, Thornberry got a win that elevated his confidence.

“Braden, like a lot of other, got to school and his head was spinning,” Malloy said. “He won the Patriot All-American a year ago. That gave him a lot of confidence that he belonged. He came back last spring and was a lot more confident.”

It also brought a change in the mindset of Thornberry when approaching tournaments.

“Coming into a tournament, I used to worry if I was going to play well or not play well,” Thornberry said. “Now, I’m trying to win every tournament I enter. If you play badly, you play badly. I’m expecting to play well.”

It turns out a confident Thornberry plays well with great regularity. He’s as good as anybody. Over the fall slate, he led the nation in stroke average. Perhaps more impressively, he’s shaved 3.5 strokes off of his average round from freshman to sophomore year.

“It’s unbelievable,” Malloy said. “That’s over 10 strokes per tournament. That’s crazy. You’re talking about a game where the difference in winning or losing as an individual or a team comes down to one stroke. Look what 10 strokes does for you.”

As Ole Miss heads to Puerto Rico to open the spring schedule next week, the team is obviously bolstered on the scorecard by one of the best players in the nation. More than that, he lets his teammates play more freely as well.

“It takes pressure off each of the other guys,” Malloy said. “The majority of the time, he’s going to be an eraser for somebody else’s bad score. The pressure that he takes off the others that he’s going to play well and grind it out really helps our team.”

Thornberry does more than help Ole Miss with his play in tournaments. He’s a program-building type of talent. When he goes to and wins tournaments as competitive and esteemed as the Jones while wearing that Ole Miss logo on his hat, it’s a clear sign that Ole Miss golf can compete with anyone and thrive on a national stage.

“The knock on Ole Miss that I hear from other schools recruiting against us is that you can’t do it at Ole Miss,” Malloy said. “If you look at the improvement as a player and a young man in just the year and a half that he’s been there, that sends a message to the elite players that you can do it at Ole Miss.”

 

 

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