Rebels' Sights Set on Spring
Nov. 6, 2017
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss recently concluded its play for the year at the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational, shooting 23-under (841) for its seventh lowest score in school history.
Against difficult competition, including seven other top-50 teams, the Rebels left the island in seventh place, marking just the third time in the last two years they finished outside of the top-five. That result leaves Ole Miss eager for more opportunities this spring. And with half of the team posting career-best 54-hole totals over the fall, head coach Chris Malloy is confident that the Rebels’ best golf is ahead of them.
“I thought we certainly did a lot of good and we have some positives to take from the fall,” Malloy said. “However, I don’t think we played nearly our best golf. We had good rounds here and there, but overall, I think we left a lot out there. It should leave us pretty hungry going into the offseason.”
Though the fall came to a close in an uncharacteristic way for an Ole Miss team that won three tournaments last fall, the Rebels will focus on their early victories and individual strides made along the way to carry into the spring.
Junior Braden Thornberry led Ole Miss in three out of the four tournaments this fall. He first made his mark in the Rebels’ season opener at Shoal Creek where he claimed his eighth individual title, passing Dave Peege for the most individual tournament titles in Ole Miss men’s golf history. He then worked in windy Wisconsin to find a tie for fifth, marking the 15th top-five finish of his career. Thornberry didn’t stop there, though. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native went on to defend his FAMC Intercollegiate title, while breaking the tournament record with a 5-under 211. However, in his last appearance, Thornberry failed to find a rhythm, resulting in a tie for 32nd after shooting a 4-under 212.
“Braden’s best golf is ahead of him. I know he struggled a little in Hawaii, but he has won two tournaments out of the gates and has shown everybody why he is arguably the best player in college golf,” Malloy said. “We look for more of the same from him. He will get back and work extremely hard this offseason like the rest of the guys and be better.”
While golf can often times appear as a solitary sport, as best illustrated in the Rebels’ fight on the island, it is far from it. The lone senior, Kerry Sweeney, stepped up to the plate in their final tournament and turned in a career-best 12-under (204), the fourth-lowest 54-hole score in Ole Miss history. This was a result of carding a career-best 8-under (64) in his second round, allowing him to finish in a three-way tie for eighth, marking the second top-10 finish of his career.
“Kerry sat at home for the first time this fall since he has been here, and there is good that can come from that if you treat it the right way,” Malloy said. “He showed a lot of guts, bounced back and had a great attitude to be able to end the fall on a high note. I am sure he will continue the success from Hawaii over to the spring.”
Just as Sweeney will leave 2017 behind on a high note, junior Beau Briggs and sophomore Chip Getz will do the same. Briggs was found in the lineup in all four tournaments this fall and worked the best finish of his career with a tie for fifth at the FMAC Intercollegiate at The Grove. He then took that momentum over the Pacific where he carded a career-best 18 with a 3-under 69 score, contributing to his overall career-best 54-hole total of 5-under (211). Getz competed in three tournaments this year, all as an individual, saving his best for last. The Paradise Valley, Arizona native carded a career-low 5-under 67 two days in a row at the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational to turn in a career-best 8-under 208. This was a result of 19 birdies, the fifth most from an individual at the tournament.
“Chip played very well over the last two events, and he is trying to break into the lineup. He got some good experience this fall and showed us he can compete,” Malloy said. “You get better when you have new guys battling to get into the lineup. I don’t necessarily think we played as well this fall as we did last fall, but I do think we had more depth and that’s a positive.”
Another contributor to that depth is freshman Cecil Wegener, who appeared in three tournaments this fall, two in the counting five. Wegener made his name known in Nashville after carding a career-low 18, finishing the tournament with his first eagle as a Rebel to card a 1-under 71. This performance contributed to his 5-over (221), a new career-low 54-hole score, allowing him to walk away in a six-way tie for 20th, the highest finish of his career.
Numerous Rebels showed glimpses of their potential throughout the fall, and now it’s on them to turn those glimpses into a full showcase come spring.
Despite not returning to the competition field until February, Ole Miss was already seen out on the driving range and putting green less than a week after the final tournament. The Rebels will be away from the team setting for the winter, though, making these next few months crucial for individual improvement. Malloy is excited to see what his team will look like after an offseason of work.
“Now it’s a matter of getting back, dissecting where our mistakes were and figuring out what to work on. Ultimately, this team’s success will be based on what they do over the next three months,” Malloy said. “We will see how the team reacts this offseason. I think we can take some positives out of it knowing it was a lot of simple mistakes and cleaning up our golf game. It is the little attention to detail that we need going into the offseason.”
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