Thompson, Thornberry Top Q-School Final Stage; Miller Is T102, Beach T114
December 17, 2019
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. -- In 2017, the golf games of Braden Thornberry and Curtis Thompson were going in opposite directions. Thornberry, who was a sophomore at the University of Mississippi that spring, won the individual medal at the NCAA Championships, played for the U.S. team in the Walker Cup Matches that summer and was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world. Thompson, a former LSU star who had been a regular on the then-Web.com (now Korn Ferry) Tour since 2015, basically lost his swing in the second half of the year. He was shooting scores in the mid-80's. After missing four consecutive cuts, he withdrew from the last three tournaments he entered. The only score he turned in during those events was a 79.
Thompson, who is a brother of LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson, still had some status on Web.com in 2018, but he made the cut in only 4 of 13 events and earned less than $10,000. He finished the year No. 210 on the money list.
On the verge of giving up tournament golf, he hardly played during most of 2019, spending part of his time caddying for his sister. But he decided to take another shot at regaining his status on the Korn Ferry Tour, and sought the help of Martin Hall, an instructor who is best known for giving lessons on The Golf Channel. Whatever they did, it worked.
In a story that's not unlike the revival of Brendon Todd -- who went from not being able to make cuts to winning consecutive PGA Tour events in November -- the 27-year-old Thompson resurrected his game, and was the medalist in the Second Stage of Korn Ferry Q-School in November. His revival continued last week during the Final Stage at the Orange County National Golf Complex, where he shot 68-62-69-66--265 and tied Thornberry for medalist honors.
As a result, he and Thornberry are both fully exempt for the entire 2020 Korn Ferry season.
"Now,' Thompson said afterward, "I can play golf again."
Thornberry, 22, opened the Final Stage with a 65 on Thursday, which put him in a tie for first place. There was an element of deja vu to that, because he was tied for the lead at the end of the first round last year, while he was still an amateur. He slipped down the leaderboard during the next three rounds and wound up tied for 74th. That didn't guarantee him anything (only the top 40 finishers and ties have guaranteed status), but Thornberry decided to turn pro anyway, and skip the spring portion of his senior season at Ole Miss.
He got 14 starts, made six cuts and earned $55,000. So he finished outside of the top 100 on the money list.
This year, he didn't fade during the Final Stage. He dropped back a bit when he shot 70 in the second round, but he came back with a 6-under 65 in the third round on Saturday at the Panther Lake course, and on Sunday he birdied the first hole at Crooked Cat, parred the next two and then birdied six in a row, from the fourth through the ninth, on the way to a front-nine 29.
Thornberry made one birdie and one bogey on the incoming nine and posted a 7-under 65, thereby matching Thompson's 265 total (21 under). He hit 64 of 72 greens ihn regulation during the week.
Tom Whitney and Steve Lewton tied for third, one stroke behind at 266. Whitney had the best comeback of the week. His first-round 73 had him tied for 130th place, but
he rallied with rounds of 63, 66 and 64.
There was also a two-way tie for fifth, at 267, between Mike DeMorat and Nick Hardy. Then came a five-way tie for seventh -- Dawson Armstrong, Stephen Franken, John VanDerLaan, Greyson Sigg and Mark Blakefield -- at 268.
By virtue of finishing in the top 10, they all assured themselves of being exempt for the first 12 events of the 2020 season.
Those finishing in the top 40, plus ties, are guaranteed eight starts. That meant a score of 274 or better. Things got crowded down there, with 10 players tying for 32nd.
Andre Metzger is a peripatetic mini-tour veteran who sometimes lists Sioux Falls as his base of operations (he has been the leading money-winner on the Dakotas Tour and was No. 2 on the money list this year). He was in a pretty good position last week going into the weekend, with a 36-hole score of 137. But he was undone by a third-round 73. He bounced back with a 69 but ended up tied for 76th with an aggregate of 279.
Ross Miller, the former Minnesota State (Mankato) star from Osseo, closed with a 63 at Southview CC to win his second consecutive Tapemark Charity Pro-Am in September. He also made seven birdies in the last seven holes in the Second Stage of Q-School, and that enabled him to advance -- with one stroke to spare -- to the Final Stage. But he never really got anything going last week at Orange County National, where he alternated 72's and 69's to finish at 282, tied for 102nd.
Although he didn't come close to making the top 40, Miller will get a few Korn Ferry starts next year. Nick Heinen, the former two-time Resorters champion from Oklahoma, tied for 105th at Q-School last year, and he got into seven tournaments this year.
There was one other player with a Minnesota connection in the field. Alex Beach played high school golf at Stillwater, then enrolled in the Professional Golf Management Program at Nebraska -- but didn't play college golf. He didn't get serious about tournament golf until after he began working as an assistant pro at courses on the East Coast.
Despite getting off to such a late start, he has been remarkably successful as a tournament player, winning both the PGA National Club Pro and PGA National Assistant Club Pro titles this year. He opened with a 68 last week but shot 76 in the second round. A pair of 70's on the weekend gave him a 284 total and a tie for 114th.
Korn Ferry Q-School Final Stage
At Orange County National Golf Complex
Crooked Cat (par 72, 7,442 yards)
& Panther Lake (par 71, 7,309 yards)
Winter Garden, Fla.
Final results (the co-medalists are fully exempt for all of the 2020 Korn Ferry season; those finishing 3rd through 12th will be exempt for the first 12 events; those finishing 13th through 41st will be exempt for eight events)
T1. Curtis Thompson 68-62-69-66--265
T1. Braden Thornberry 65-70-65-65--265
T3. Tom Whitney 73-63-66-64--266
T3. Steve Lewton 66-63-71-66--271
T5. Mickey DeMorat 66-67-68-66--267
T5. Nick Hardy 68-63-69-67--267
T7. Dawson Armstrong 68-69-66-65--268
T7. Stephen Franken 68-67-68-65--268
T7. John VanDerLaan 67-69-65-67--268
T7. Greyson Sigg 69-63-68-68--268
T7. Mark Blakefield 65-67-68-68--268
What it took to make the top 40: 274 (10-way tie for 32nd)
T76. Andre Metzger 69-68-73-69--279
T102. Ross Miller 72-69-72-69--282
T114. Alex Beach 67-76-70-70--284