Blue Raider golfers shoot to defend Mason Rudolph title

54-hole event begins Friday

September 24, 2010 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Last week's ninth-place finish in the GolfWeek Conference Challenge opened the season for the Middle Tennessee golf team. This weekend, the stakes are raised as the Blue Raiders will be defending a championship.

Having beaten South Carolina in a playoff last fall, Coach Whit Turnbow's young team will have the target on their backs as they play in the Mason Rudolph Men's Championship beginning today.

The three-day, 54 hole event will be played at the Vanderbilt Legends Club South Course in Franklin, and will be hosted by the Commodores. It is a par 71, 7,100 yard setup. Seventeen teams, including four SEC teams, three from the Sun Belt Conference and Oklahoma will be going for the title.

Six of the nine previous champions in the field include Middle Tennessee, South Carolina, Ole Miss (twice), Georgia State and Vanderbilt. Ole Miss is the only one to have successfully defended a championship, having won in 2006 and 2007.

Middle Tennessee, behind veterans Jason Millard, Kent Bulle and Craig Smith, overcame an 11-stroke lead by South Carolina on the final day last fall, They pulled into a tie with the defending champion Gamecocks, then defeated them in a playoff to grab the title. Bulle and Smith have graduated, but Millard is back for his final season.

Joining Millard will be junior Hunter Green. The other three will be true freshmen Brett Patterson, Paul Sansom and Brad Simons.

Turnbow noted that Millard and Green were his "go-to" guys, but that he was pleased with the way the yearlings played at Iowa. "They held their own against a field that included 10 teams from last spring's NCAA tournament. We shot better as a team each day, which is encouraging."

Millard's 210 was good enough for fourth place at Iowa, and he will have to continue to shoot well for the Blue Raiders to be able to defend their title in the Mason Rudolph.

Green saved his best for last in the Golf Week Conference Challenge, shooting a 71 on the final day to help move the Blue Raiders up to ninth place in the 14-team field. Individually, he finished in a tie for 26th.

Patterson had a steady 73-76-74- 223, while Sansom started off with an 80, then dropped his score to a 74, then shot 72 on the final day, impressing Turnbow with his improvement each day.

Simons will be playing in his first tournament.

Standings and up-to-date scores will be available on GolfStat.com each day.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.