OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - After making a Sunday charge and finishing fourth at last year's FedEx St. Jude Classic, Ole Miss men's golfer Braden Thornberry has earned a sponsor's exemption into the 2018 PGA Tour event, the tournament announced Monday afternoon. As the highest amateur finisher at the FedEx St. Jude since 1965, Thornberry returns to the TPC Southwind in Memphis (June 7-10).
"I'm so excited to play in Memphis again," said Thornberry. "Last year was so cool having all of the support that I had - so many people that I hadn't seen in years came out to support - and that was a really cool feeling. Like I've said before, the goal of a week like this is to gain as much exposure and experience at the professional level as possible. Looking forward to getting after it in June."
Thornberry, currently the No. 1 amateur in the world according to Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com rankings, is no stranger to competing against the pros. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native has played in three PGA Tour tournaments and one Web.com Tour tournament within the past year. His fourth-place showing at the 2017 FedEx St. Jude, his PGA Tour debut, was the best finish by an amateur on the PGA Tour since 2016. Thornberry also competed in the 2017 Greenbrier Classic as the winner of the Fred Haskins Award (nation's top collegiate golfer). In November, he used a second round 64 (-6) to make the cut at the RSM Classic.
Last month, Thornberry made his Web.com Tour debut by playing in the inaugural North Mississippi Classic at the Country Club of Oxford. With Rebel Nation well represented in the gallery, he thrived off the support to make the cut. The event was shortened to 54 holes due to inclement weather, and Thornberry tied for 22nd.
With another big year in college golf, Thornberry has become a Ben Hogan Award finalist. He is the first finalist in school history for the award given to the best college golfer taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions during the past 12-month period (May-May). For the Rebels this season, Thornberry owns four wins, seven top-5 finishes and nine top-20s in 11 college events with a 69.88 scoring average over 33 rounds. He is a two-time SEC Golfer of the Week this season, the only golfer in the conference to win the honor multiple times.
Thornberry won the season-opening Shoal Creek Invitational (Sept. 25-26) before claiming the Franklin Mortgage Intercollegiate at The Grove (Oct. 9-10). Thornberry led the Rebels to a team victory at the Hootie at Bulls Bay (March 25-27) while finishing at the top of the individual leaderboard. Last month at the Old Waverly Collegiate Championship (April 16-17), he cruised to a five-shot victory. With 11 medalist honors throughout his career, Thornberry is the only golfer to reach double figures in individual wins in Ole Miss history.