Braden Thornberry heads to final stage as amateur, but pro golf could follow

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Braden Thornberry of Team USA his out of a bunker on the eighth hole in a two up win over Harry Ellis of Team Great Britain and Ireland during the singles matches in the 2017 Walker Cup at the Los Angeles Country Club on September 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Harry How/Getty Images

Braden Thornberry heads to final stage as amateur, but pro golf could follow

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Braden Thornberry heads to final stage as amateur, but pro golf could follow

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. – Braden Thornberry plans to play the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School as an amateur. Whether or not he’s still an amateur after that remains to be seen.

Thornberry tied for 14th Friday at Southern Hills Plantation Club, where he shot 14 under in 72 holes. He was among 18 players out of that second-stage site to move on to Q-School finals Dec. 6-9 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz.

The Ole Miss senior, who won the 2017 NCAA individual title as a sophomore, told Golfweek that if he finishes among the top 40 and ties – and earns full status for the 2019 Web.com Tour season – he’ll leave school a semester early and turn pro.

If not, he’ll have some thinking to do. Every player in the final-stage field earns some sort of status, so Thornberry could be gone even if he doesn’t receive a full card. It all depends on how many starts he’ll receive early in the season.

“It could be worth it, it might not; that’s kind of the gray area right now,” Thornberry said. “Basically, (top 40), I’m gone. If I finish low to the pack, I’m staying in school. And in the middle, I’ll figure it out.”

Thornberry is one of just three amateurs who advanced to final stage, and he is the only college golfer. (Andy Zhang left Florida before this season, and Australia’s Min Woo Lee never attended college.) Should Thornberry turn pro early, it will leave a huge void on the Rebels’ team. The Olive Branch, Miss., native won the Haskins Award two seasons ago and holds the school record with 11 career victories. He also won the McCormack Medal this year as the nation’s top amateur, though he’ll forfeit starts in next summer’s U.S. and British opens should he not remain amateur.

But Thornberry’s potential decision won’t come as a surprise to the Rebels. Thornberry said he started thinking about turning pro early after his sophomore year and has communicated closely with Ole Miss and coach Chris Malloy for the past two years. Thornberry almost played Q-School last fall, going as far as to adjust his schedule around it, but ultimately decided to wait. This fall, it was a “no-brainer.”

“This whole year has been based around this,” said Thornberry, who competed in all five events for the Rebels this fall. “The college stuff is a good fallback plan. A lot of people wouldn’t even come back for senior year, but I like Ole Miss a lot.”

Thornberry will need just one summer online class after his spring credits to graduate. Of course, if he turns pro, his degree will be put on hold.

“That’s the one negative of leaving school early,” said Thornberry, a marketable kid who is expected to receive a handful of endorsements upon turning pro.

One negative and plenty of positives. Gwk

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