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Team championship foremost for Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee's women eye conference title

April 15, 2007 · MT Media Relations
ORLANDO, Fla. - Taryn Durham won a playoff to earn low medalist at the Sun Belt Conference Women's Golf Championships last year to become the first Middle Tennessee golfer - male or female - to win the individual title.

· Photos: Practice Round Gallery

Defending the title at this week's SBC Championships at Walt Disney's Eagle Pines Golf Course; however, is not Durham's principal goal this week. Helping the Middle Tennessee women's golf team earn its first conference championship is.

"I would much rather win as a team than an individual, but I feel like if I play well as an individual then that will help the team," Durham said. "All five of our players are capable of shooting low so if we can put all of that together this week I really believe we have a good chance to win this tournament."

In order to capture the team title the Blue Raiders will have to dethrone three-time defending champion Denver, which enters the tournament ranked 18th nationally. Head Coach Rachael Short's team is among the top four-rated squads from the Sun Belt nationally and they will be going head-to-head against the Pioneers, as well as other league teams, for the first time this season.

"You will see some different teams here that we don't normally see throughout the season," Short said. "It's a different tournament for that reason but mainly because you don't see some of the teams throughout the year. Our goal is to shoot 300 or below all three rounds.

"I think the key for us is to play one shot at a time and put a score out there and see what happens. We can't control what everyone else does; all we can control is what we do and try to take our time, have fun, and see what happens. I hope we perform as well as we have throughout the season."

The Blue Raiders have finished third or better six times in 10 tournaments, and they have played their best golf down the stretch. Middle Tennessee has either won or finished runner-up in four of its last five tournaments.

Middle Tennessee's lineup includes Durham, Leigh Wilkins, Maggie McGill, Clara Leathers, and Mallory Bishop. All five players have stroke averages of 78.2 or better during the 2006-07 season, led by Durham's 74.3. The junior standout has been the team's top scorer in eight of 10 tournaments.

Wilkins also has been solid with a 76.6 average for the year, including a 75.1 score in the spring. The Murfreesboro native has finished 10th or better in three of her last four tournaments, including one third-place finish and one fifth-place finish.

McGill is the team's most seasoned player when it comes to the conference championships. She is competing in her fourth championship and will be looking to help the team garner its first SBC team title and the automatic berth into the NCAA Championships.

Leathers is the lone freshman in the group and the newcomer established herself from the start of the season. She joins Durham as the only two players on the team to participate in all 10 tournaments entering the SBC Championships. Bishop has played in eight events and also has been a staple in the Blue Raider lineup.

The women's field will tangle an Eagles Pine course that received 4-1/2 stars out of 5 by Golf Digest. The challenging course features dish-shaped fairways and surrounding wetlands that give Eagle Pines a unique look and matchless challenge. The greens are well-guarded by strategically placed bunkers and 16 of the 18 holes boast water. On this course, success lies in the touch more than the power, which could be an asset for the Blue Raiders.

Middle Tennessee's first group will tee off at 7:57 a.m.

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