BRYAN, Texas (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - On the final day of the NCAA Bryan Regional at Traditions Club, Ole Miss men's golfer Braden Thornberry fired a final round 70 (-2) to secure his bid to the 2018 NCAA National Championships. Thornberry, the defending national champion, posted a three-day total of 207 (-9) to earn a spot as the top individual not on a qualifying team.
The Rebels just missed out advancing as a team, finishing in sixth to match their seed entering the NCAA Regional. With the top five teams moving on, Ole Miss entered the day in fifth before posting a final round 298 (+10) to end the tournament at 13-over (294-285-298--877). The seeding held its ground as the top five teams claimed all of the qualifying spots. Texas A&M shot a 279 (-9) for the third straight day to run away with the regional title, beating runner-up Clemson (283-276-287--846) by nine shots. Baylor (282-288-287--857) and UCLA finished third and fourth, respectively, while Kentucky used a 3-under 285 in the final round to take the last spot (298-291-285--874) by three strokes.
Thornberry recorded a team-high six birdies throughout his final round and shot a pair of 1-under 35s on both sides. The No. 1 amateur in the world got off to a slow start with two bogeys over his first five holes. However, he bounced back with three straight birdies before making the turn. Thornberry birdied the par-3 second before finding the trees on No. 4, leading to a bogey. Once again, he responded with back-to-back birdies to improve to 10-under for the tournament and one shot off the lead. A bogey on the difficult par-4 ninth concluded his round, but it was enough to send the Ben Hogan Award finalist on to the national championship to defend his crown.
Thornberry's 9-under total was two shots back of medalist Chandler Phillips of Texas A&M. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native led the tournament in par 3 scoring (-3), while finishing second in par 5 scoring (-7) among the 75-man field.
Cecil Wegener turned in an under-par round for the Rebels, posting a 71 (-1). It was the SEC All-Freshman's best round of the tournament by four strokes. Wegener began his day with a birdie on the par-5 10th before adding another on No. 16. With seven pars to go along with the birdies, he made the turn at 2-under. Wegener sandwiched another par-5 birdie (No. 5) in between bogeys on the two par 3s on the front side (No. 2 and No. 7) to remain under par for the round.
In his final round as a Rebel, senior Kerry Sweeney shot 78 (+6) to contribute to the team score. The Melbourne, Florida, native birdied No. 1 and made par on each of the last five holes to complete his round. Just behind Sweeney was junior Beau Briggs with a 79 (+7). After going 2-over through his first nine holes, Briggs experienced a roller coaster back nine that featured only one par. However, he recorded three-birdies through a four-hole stretch (Nos. 4-7).
While the team's season comes to a close, Thornberry will march on to the national championships at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater Oklahoma. As an individual qualifier, he will compete in the four rounds of stroke play, which will take place May 25-28.
"I'm gutted for our guys to not achieve our ultimate goal of advancing to the final round of the national championship," said head coach Chris Malloy. "However, this is a life lesson that things don't always go according to the script. We have been fortunate to be on the good side of this outcome much more than the short end like we were today. Championship programs are built from lessons learned on days like today, and there is no doubt that we will be better for this. It may not feel good right now, but there is no doubt in my mind that we got better as a program with the lessons we learned today. I am extremely proud of the effort that this group put in all year long. As for Braden, he is extremely excited to defend his crown as NCAA Champion next week."
*4. Braden Thornberry 69-68-70--207 (-9)
T35. Cecil Wegener 76-75-71--222 (+6)
T40. Beau Briggs 75-69-79--223 (+7)
T57. Josh Seiple 74-73-80--227 (+11)
T67. Kerry Sweeney 79-75-78--232 (+16)
*Qualifies for NCAA National Championships
Team Results (Golfstat Ranking)
*1. #2 Texas A&M 279-279-279--837 (-27)
*2. #14 Clemson 283-276-287--846 (-18)
*3. #11 Baylor 282-288-287--857 (-7)
*4. #26 UCLA 288-288-290--866 (+2)
*5. #23 Kentucky 298-291-285--874 (+10)
6. #34 Ole Miss 294-285-298--877 (+13)
7. #38 South Carolina 293-294-295--882 (+18)
8. Mississippi State 300-299-286--885 (+21)
9. UNCW 306-290-290--886 (+22)
10. Northern Colorado 306-287-301--894 (+30)
11. #50 Georgia 303-302-292--897 (+33)
12. Bradley 297-303-301--901 (+37)
13. #47 San Francisco 304-300-300--904 (+40)
*Qualifies for NCAA National Championships