Reports out of Los Angeles Thursday confirmed what had already been rumored around northern Mississippi — Braden Thornberry, defending NCAA men's golf champion, will be returning for his junior year at Ole Miss. This is good.
And it's for good reason.
Thornberry set a goal to be legendary this week entering the US Amateur Championship at Riviera Country Club — because of what he had already achieved.
He was trying to join the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus and Ryan Moore as the only men to have won the NCAA individual golf championship and the US Amateur. BT-Money (new nickname) had one down and one to go.
There's a reason only four men have accomplished this feat. This is like Bloodsport with sweater vests, you guys. And clubs.
Thornberry, the No. 3 ranked amateur in the world, dropped the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Joaquin Niemann, Wednesday in the round of 64 match-play.
Unfortunately for the rising junior, Thursday was his swan song, as he dropped the round of 32 to Travis Smyth of Australia 3 and 2.
Thornberry played in the Amateur last year and admittedly said to reporters at the time that he was just about enjoying the experience and getting as far as possible. This year, he planned to win and become a legend at 20.
Obviously, what comes with legend status are piles of cash, fame, and a tour card for him to earn as professional. Instead, he decided to come back for another year at Ole Miss.
This is after BT-Money notched a T-4 at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, which would have netted him a solid $200K, had he been a pro. Then there's the potential for Nike/Under Armour/Hooter's sponsorships if you so choose.
It’s here we should mention that Thornberry turned down $240k just to retain his amateur status earlier this summer. Would that football players were so virtuous.
By coming back to Ole Miss, Thornberry bought himself another year to develop without the pressure of letting those sponsors down and another opportunity to capture the Amateur next summer and become one of golf's immortals.
While we at the Cup can't intimately know what BT-Money is thinking, in the game of golf, unlike some others, there's not quite as much risk in staying in college to continue playing the game. This is a sport you can conceivably competitively play into your mid-40s. One could leave early, of course, though failing and beginning the grind to stay a professional for as long as possible could be detrimental to your game.
So enjoy Oxford, Braden. It will be some of the best years of your life, but we have NO DOUBT there are many more good ones coming your way.