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Thornberry advances; Ole Miss, MSU fail to qualify


From Special Reports



BRYAN, Texas -- Ole Miss' Braden Thornberry secured a spot as an individual in the NCAA Championships, but the Mississippi State and Ole Miss men's golf teams missed out Wednesday on qualifying for the event after the third round of the NCAA Bryan Regional. 


MSU wrapped up its the first season under coach Dusty Smith -- and their first regional appearance since 2013-14 -- with a 2-under-par 285, their best round of the three days at the Par-72, 7,146-yard Traditions Club. 


"I thought we responded like champions today," Smith said. "Everyone had a part in today's round." 


Thornberry, the reigning national champion, fired a final-round 70 (-2) to secure his bid to the NCAA National Championships. He posted a three-day total of 207 (-9) to earn a spot as the top individual not on a qualifying team. 


Ole Miss finished sixth, which matched its seeding, and just missed qualifying in one of the top five spots. 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 beat 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. 


For MSU, senior Taylor Bibbs shot a 2-under 70, which tied a team best, while classmate Taylor Grant carded a 74  


Sophomore Garrett Johnson mirrored Bibbs' round with a 70 that included three-consecutive birdies on the front nine, MSU's final nine holes of the day. 


Johnson had the best finish for the tournament with a share for 25th and a 3-over-par. Bibbs shot 4-over for a tie for 28th. 


Peng Pichaikool played even-par golf Wednesday and tied with Grant for 40th at 7-over. 


Freshman Cameron Clarke shot a 3-over 75 in the final round and 13-over for the week. 


Despite not qualifying, MSU's 21-over-par helped it jump two spots in the final standings. 


"Last night we talked as a team about being more competitive out there and not giving in to anything," Smith said. "I thought we responded like champions today. It was the first time all week that we had all five guys in the round the entire time. I'm proud of the character and toughness this team showed, not only this week, but the entire season." 


Thornberry recorded a team-high six birdies throughout his final round and shot a pair of 1-under 35s on both sides. His 9-under was two shots back of medalist Chandler Phillips, of Texas A&M. 


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. 


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. 


Junior Beau Briggs shot 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). 


Thornberry will march on to the national championships on May 25-28 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater Oklahoma. As an individual qualifier, he will compete in the four rounds of stroke play. 


"I'm gutted for our guys to not achieve our ultimate goal of advancing to the final round of the national championship," Ole Miss coach Chris Malloy said. "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." 




Alabama finishes fourth to qualify for NCAA Championships 


STOCKTON, Calif. -- Senior Jonathan Hardee and freshman Wilson Furr finished among the top five individuals to lead the seventh-ranked Alabama men's golf team to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Stockton Regional on Wednesday. 


The finish helped Alabama secure a spot in the NCAA National Championship.  


Alabama closed play with a three-day total of 15-under par 849 (282-280-287) to seal its 20th appearance at nationals and 11th in 16 seasons under coach Jay Seawell. 


"Making the national championship is a big deal," Seawell said. "The guys were good throughout the week and it was a different guy each day. I am really proud of how they battled, especially on the back nine again today under the highest pressure you can have. You can't practice or prepare for that type of pressure when you are trying to qualify. I am proud of how they responded. We are looking forward to getting back home then heading to Stillwater (site of this year's national championship) for a chance to do something special." 


Alabama, the regional's No. 2 seed, entered the event boasting two of the top-20 golfers in the nation -- No. 12 Lee Hodges and No. 20 Davis Riley. However, Furr and Hardee led the charge. Furr paced all individuals in the field with 16 birdies on his way to finishing tied for third with a 9-under par 207.  


Hardee tied for fifth with an 8-under par 208, which was a season-best mark. The Greer, South Carolina, native closed the regional with a season-best round of 5-under 67 after carding rounds of 68 and 73 on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. 


Riley tied for 37th with a 1-over 217 (72-70-75), while freshman Davis Shore finished tied for 43rd after carding a 218 (69-74-75) on the par 72, 7,239-yard Reserve at Spanos Park layout. Hodges rounded out the Crimson Tide lineup in 61st with a 223 (75-73-75). 


"This was a total team effort and I think that will help us next week," Seawell said. "We are going to need all five guys to perform if we want to contend for a national championship. We've proved we are more than a two-man team. Both Davis Riley and Lee Hodges have been terrific all year and both are first-team All-SEC players, but our team is much deeper than that. That bodes well for us next week." 


Kansas, which entered the event ranked 43rd, won the regional with a 20-under par 844, finishing one stroke ahead of No. 18 Stanford (845). Iowa State was third with an 847, finishing two strokes ahead of Alabama, while No. 30 Oregon was the fifth qualifying team. with an 852. LSU, ranked No. 6 and the regional's top seed, finished sixth with an 857.



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