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Lady Raiders open fall season at Alabama

September 17, 2005 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee women's golf team will open its 2005 fall season on Sunday at the Ann Rhoades Invitational hosted by the University of Alabama. The 18-team field will play 54 holes Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at the Ol' Colony Club Golf Course in Tuscaloosa.

The field includes Augusta State, Belmont, Birmingham Southern, East Carolina, Jacksonville State, Middle Tennessee, Murray State, Samford, Troy, Alabama, UAB, Memphis, Miami, Mississippi, and UNC-Wilmington.

"There are a lot of quality teams in this field and it will be quite a challenge to start the season," said Head Coach Rachael Short, the 2005 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. "It is a tough field but I like that for the first tournament because we will know where we stand immediately."

Following five rounds of qualifying over the past week, four veterans and a true freshman will get things started for the Lady Raiders in Tuscaloosa. All-Sun Belt Conference performers Taryn Durham and Maggie McGill made the lineup as did sophomore Jamey Dillard, senior Grace Holmes, and freshman Leigh Wilkins from Oakland High School.

"We had a very competitive qualifying tournament," said Short. "It came down to the last day between our two freshmen, Leigh Wilkins and Mallory Bishop. Both shot a 76 the final round, but Wilkins earned a spot in the lineup by owning a two-shot lead heading into the last 18."

Durham, who won a school record two tournaments last year, led the Lady Raiders with a 76.0 stroke average as a freshman and enjoyed a great summer that included medalist honors at the Kentucky State Amateur.

"Taryn is really playing well right now and is very anxious to get things started," said Short. "If she can build on her freshman season, Taryn has a chance to be a very special player at Middle Tennessee."

Also impressing Short has been the play of Dillard. A true freshman a year ago, Durham played in all 10 tournaments and had a stroke average of 80.6.

"Jamey has stepped up her play considerably," added Short. "She is coming off a good summer and looks to be more comfortable after a year of collegiate golf under her belt. She has been very strong in preseason practice. Now she just needs to take it into competition."

Holmes, the lone senior on the team, played in just one event last season and shot a 74 in the only round of the tournament. The Lexington, Tenn., native has been the biggest surprise for Coach Short in preseason workouts and her efforts earned her a spot in the lineup this week.

"Grace has played great and looks like a totally different player," said Short. "I think she is feeling more responsible since she is the lone senior and has concentrated a lot on improving her game. She spent a lot of time this summer working on her scoring and it appears to have paid off."

McGill and Wilkins have also been impressive this fall and Coach Short feels like both players will play a major role in the team's success this year.

The Lady Raiders finished sixth in last year's event, which was the only tournament all year the team placed out of the top five. Durham led Middle Tennessee a year ago by finishing 10th.

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