Ole Miss's Braden Thornberry (Haskins), Duke's Leona Maguire (Annika) earn national player-of-the-year honors
Braden Thornberry already had four individual wins prior to the NCAA Championship during the 2016-’17 college season. But when the 20-year-old sophomore at Mississippi polished off a four-stroke triumph at Rich Harvest Farms last month, the new national champion added one last impressive line to his resume that voters of the Fred Haskins Award could not ignore.
On Wednesday, Thornberry was announced as the winner of the college player-of-the-year award. In addition to his victories, Thornberry finished this last season with an NCAA-best 69.61 stroke average, more than 2½ strokes lower than his mark as a freshman. He is the first Ole Miss golfer to claim the award since its founding in 1971.
“I knew if I had a good end of the year I’d have a chance, so I’m happy it worked out. It is an honor to be included with those names on the trophy,” Thornberry said.
Conversely, Duke's Leona Maguire knows from winning national player-of-the-year awards, having claimed the Annika Award in 2015. The 22-year-old junior from Ireland, the current No. 1 ranked women's amateur in the world, became the first player to earn the honor for a second time when she was named the 2017 winner on Wednesday.
Maguire finished T-2 at the NCAA Championship last month, capping a 2016-’17 season in which she recorded three wins and, more impressively, never finished worse than T-6 in 10 starts. Her 70.29 stroke average is the lowest single-season mark in college golf since Arizona's Lorena Ochoa finished with a 70.13 average in 2002.
“This award is a huge honor for me, and to win it for the second time is a very special feeling,” Maguire said. “It’s something I’m very, very proud of to get the opportunity to win again.”
With both awards comes a few perks. Thornberry receives an exemption into the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic . Coincidentally, on Thursday morning, he'll gets his first exposure to a tour event as he will tee it up in the FedEx St. Jude Classic outside of Memphis.
Maguire, meanwhile, will get an exemption into the LPGA's Evian Championship later this year after already planning in four majors and finishing T-21 in the Rio Olympics as one of just three amateurs to compete in the event.
Surprisingly, it had been a while since the NCAA champion also went on to claim the Haskins Award. The last time the double was accomplished was by N.C. State’s Matt Hill in 2009.
Last week, LSU’s Sam Burns was named winner of another D-I national college player-of-the-year honor, claiming the Jack Nicklaus Award. And in May, Stanford’s Maverick McNealy won the Ben Hogan Award, given to the top college player based off his performance in amateur and collegiate events.