Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rick Cleveland: Ole Miss super soph

In the recent Fed Ex St. Jude Classic, Ole Miss sophomore Braden Thornberry shot 71 in the first round, 69 in the second. Thornberry, playing for the first time in a PGA Tour event, was warming to the task.

So, he shot 67 in the third round and then 65 in the final round on Sunday. No telling what he would have shot had they played a fifth round on Monday. Sixty-three seems likely. There was a definite trend working. He was cutting himself two shots a day.

Thornberry darned near won the thing is what he did. As it was he finished tied for fourth. Had he been competing as a professional, he would have earned nearly a quarter of a million bucks.

This came on the heels of his winning the NCAA Championship by four shots, which came on the heels of his completing the most successful individual golf season in Mississippi history. Late Sunday, I found myself wondering what the late Cary Middlecoff, the great champion turned TV commentator, would have to say about young Thornberry.

In fact, I would love to compare what Thornberry, 20, has accomplished this spring with something in Mississippi golf history but there is really nothing with which to compare it without going all the way back to Middlecoff. He is in a rare zone.

The last time any amateur golfer finished so high in the Memphis PGA Tournament was 59 years ago in 1958. The late Mason Rudolph finished tied for third at Memphis way back then, turned pro the next year and was PGA Tour Rookie of the Year the next year.

Clearly, Thornberry has a decision to make. He has two years of eligibility remaining at Ole Miss. He loves the college experience and has a close relationship with his coach, Chris Malloy. He also must ask himself what more he can achieve in college golf and if he is ready for the emotional grind of the PGA Tour. His finish at Memphis might be the best indication.

That's a story for another day.

Today, we're trying to establish his place in Mississippi golf history, which is fairly heady stuff for a guy who can't legally purchase a beer.

To find a Mississippi collegian with such promise we must go all the way back to 1939 and the first Ole Miss golf All-American, the future Dr. Cary Middlecoff, who actually won a PGA Tour tournament as an amateur in 1945 and would go on to win 40 PGA championships, a Masters and two U.S. Opens Dr. Cary could play.

Middlecoff fully intended to practice dentistry and play his golf as an amateur after finishing at Ole Miss and dental school at Tennessee. He graduated from dental school in 1944, just in time to become a U.S. Army dentist in World War II. In that capacity, Middlecoff filled 2,093 teeth in 18 months as an Army dentist. I don’t know what is more impressive: his filling that many teeth or the Army’s keeping that detailed a record.

His father, Herman Middlecoff, wanted him to continue to practice dentistry and play golf as an amateur. In fact, Herman enlisted the great amateur champion Bobby Jones to help convince his son that amateur golf was a worthy pursuit.

Middlecoff wanted to play golf against the best. He is reputed to have said, “When I got out of the Army, I didn’t want to see any more teeth.”

In 1955, after Middlecoff won the Masters, beating the great Ben Hogan by seven shots, Jones quipped, “The way he filled those 72 cavities during the last four days makes me think I may have been wrong.”

Middlecoff’s two Open victories came on two of America’s greatest tests of golf: in 1949 at Medinah and in 1956 at Oak Hill in Rochester. At Oak Hill, he defeated Hogan by a single shot.

As great a golfer as he was, Middlecoff is perhaps better remembered as a TV broadcaster. Surely, he would marvel over what Thornberry has accomplished at such a tender age. Among those accomplishments is causing us to look all the way back to Dr. Cary Middlecoff for an appropriate comparison.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


Anonymous said...

That's a great read Rick! Thank you. I didn't see if posted on your Mississippi Today site. I wonder how many people never knew this.

Anonymous said...

Where is this guy from? I hope he is a native Mississippian....we need some heroes these days!

Anonymous said...

Does Cleveland pay you 10:11? You leave kudos on every one of his columns.

Anonymous said...

I'll be completely honest, the comment I made at 10:11 is the first article of Ricks I've ever commented on. But I do think he does good work.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:28, I believe that he is from Olive Branch. It's nice to have our universities have elite achievers - even more so when the talent is homegrown.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rick did you also write an article on the first Mississippi NASCAR driver to win since Lake Speed did in the 80's?

Clanga Langa said...

I'd rather read something really an in depth article about the conundrum that lives inside Hugh Freeze's head.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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