Golf team hopes to upset favorites at SBC Championships

Tournament begins Monday at Muscle Shoals

April 21, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. - For the first time in close to a decade, the Middle Tennessee men's golf team will enter the Sun Belt Conference tournament as one of the hunters instead of being the hunted.

The three-day tournament will be played on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the tough Fighting Joe Course, part of the Robert Trent Jones layout in Muscle Shoals. Fighting Joe is an 7,395-yard, Par 72 challenge that will separate the good teams from the average ones. The teams will play 18 holes each day.

In recent years, the Blue Raiders have been ranked among the nation's elite teams, and were the strong favorite to win the championship. And even when the SBC title eluded them, a bid to the NCAA tournament awaited.

According to Coach Whit Turnbow, that won't automatically happen this year.

"We have had less than a stellar season this year, and the team understands that it is 'one and done' if they don't win the tournament. But it is not something that worries them, or intimidates them.

"We are playing our best golf of the year right now, which is a good time to do that. We played well in our last two tournaments at Ole Miss and Mississippi State. We are a long way from being done.

"We are going to go down there and play hard. We are going to try to make as many birdies as we can possibly make, and add it up when it's over and see what happens.

"There is a lot of fight left in them, and I expect them to compete very well."
Based on national rankings, North Texas and South Alabama are the pre-tournament favorites.

"Our league has gotten stronger each and every year," pointed out Turnbow. "We went from a one-bid league when I got here six years ago, to having two or three teams in the NCAA every year since. We'll get two teams in this year. I would like to think that we had something to do with that growth."

Turnbow will take a young and inexperienced quintet of players to Muscle Shoals to try to bring the SBC trophy back to Murfreesboro. There is not a senior in the group.

Conspicuous by his absence will be Brett Patterson, the only golfer in Blue Raider history to qualify for the U. S. Open, and one of the premier players in the nation. Patterson suffered an elbow injury in the fall that required surgery, causing him to miss the rest of the season.

Turnbow has announced his lineup for the tournament, and shares his comments about each one.

"Playing No. 1 will be sophomore Payne Denman. He's been good all year, and is ranked as one of the top 500 players in the country. He's been very solid, and played his best golf of the year at Ole Miss earlier this month, and followed that up with a solid performance at Miss. State. He's primed and ready. I think he is probably one of the top 20 players in the league, and is a potential All-Sun Belt guy. He's primed to have another good week.

"Junior Lucas Armstrong will play in the second hole. He's been solid all year, too. If he makes a few putts this week, he's going to be dangerous. He's one of these guys that hits it well all the time, but he's got to figure a way to get it in the hole a little faster, make a few more of his putts. He's played in every tournament but one, and that was in the early fall, so he's played a lot of rounds.

"Sophomore Andrew Cho will play in the third spot, and he's played in every event all year. He's played up and down, but he played a really good round the final day at Mississippi State, so he's coming on at the right time.

"Junior Jordan Jennings will play in the 4th spot. He has played the best golf of his career in the last month. He's shot a couple of rounds under par, finished 14th at Mississippi State, which was the best finish of his career. He's come on strong here at the end, which is the key to this tournament.

"Sam Thompson will play in the five-hole. He is a guy who has played a lot this spring, and has made a pretty good contribution to the team. He's a red-shirt sophomore, so he doesn't have a ton of rounds under his belt, but he has been solid and stable in that #5 spot, which is what we are after. I took some individuals to the Big Blue Classic at TSU last week, and he shot a 68, so he is starting to come around at the right time.

"Turnbow is encouraged by the way his team "is coming around at the right time. That will put us in position to at least be competitive."

Blue Raider fans can follow the progress of the team each day on GolfStat.com, which provides live scoring all three-days. Recaps of each day's play will be available on GoBlueRaiders.com.

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