FRANKLIN - Middle Tennessee came from 11 shots back on Sunday to claim the 2009 Mason Rudolph Championship at the Vanderbilt Legends Club. The tournament was shortened to 36 holes after torrential rains flooded the Franklin, Tenn., area on Saturday. Eighteen holes were played on Sunday.
The Blue Raiders rallied with a final round total of 273 and defeated 10th ranked South Carolina in a sudden-death playoff to capture the team championship on the par-71, 7,100-yard South Course. Middle Tennessee and South Carolina each finished with an 11-under par, 556, one stroke better than third place Arkansas State, who carded a 557 (272-285). Third-ranked Georgia Tech came in fourth with a 559 host Vanderbilt finished in sixth place with a six-under par, 563 (280-283).
"I am so proud of this group because they have worked extremely hard just to be put in a situation like they were in Sunday," said Head Coach Whit Turnbow. "To come out on top is impressive. I have been stressing to them how much tougher a team we need to be this year, and after Sunday, I know we will not see a tougher team than ours."
The playoff started on the 10th hole which is considered the hardest on the course. South Carolina and Middle Tennessee both finished with a 1-over score on 10 so it was on to the par 5 18th. The Gamecocks played 18 in 2-under par but the Blue Raiders blitzed the finishing hole with four birdies to take the victory. Craig Smith, Jason Millard, Kent Bulle, and Hunter Green all recorded birdies for the Blue Raiders on the deciding hole.
"You don't knock off two top 10 teams on the same day very often," added Turnbow. "In the past, we wanted to just compete with teams like this but every time we tee off now we expect to beat these teams. This is something to build on and we will enjoy it a couple of days before we start focusing on our next tournament."
Smith, Jason Millard, and Hunter Green combined to shoot 12-under on Sunday to key the first victory of the season. Millard, who opened with a 74 on Friday, bounced back in resounding fashion with a 5-under par 66 that included six birdies and a 31 on the front nine. Millard finished tied for 16th.
Smith had two rounds in the 60s to lead the Blue Raiders and finish in a tie for fourth. The senior had a 69 on Friday then came back with a 68 Sunday for a 137 total.
Green may have been the biggest surprise as he turned in a 67 on Sunday to tie for seventh. Green had a 138 total for the tournament and managed five birdies on Sunday to go with an impressive 32 on the opening nine.
Bulle was his usual steady self as he finished with an even par 142 and a tie for 21st. The seniors round on Sunday included 17 pars and one bogey. Brad Simons tied for 40th with a 145 that included an eagle on 18 Sunday.
The Blue Raiders will be back in action Oct. 5-6 at the Squire Creek Classic in Ruston, La.
T1 34 Middle Tennessee -12 F -11 283 273 556
T1 10 South Carolina -12 F -2 274 282 556
3 Arkansas State U. -11 F +1 272 285 557
4 3 Georgia Tech -9 F E 275 284 559
5 45 Notre Dame, U. of -6 F +1 277 285 562
6 35 Vanderbilt -5 F -1 280 283 563
7 Mississippi, U. of -2 F +7 275 291 566
8 Memphis, U. of -1 F E 283 284 567
9 South Alabama, U. of +9 F +11 282 295 577
10 Davidson College +10 F +4 290 288 578
11 Charleston, Coll. of +12 F +11 285 295 580
12 Akron, U. of +13 F +10 287 294 581
13 48 Western Carolina U. +26 F +20 290 304 594
14 Belmont University +27 F +14 297 298 595
T15 Mississippi St. U. +30 F +15 299 299 598
T15 Tennessee-Martin +30 F +11 303 295 598
17 Lipscomb Univ. +38 F +15 307 299 606
T4 Craig Smith -5 69-68=137
T7 Hunter Green -4 71-67=138
T16 Jason Millard -2 74-66=140
T21 Kent Bulle E 70-72=142
T40 Brad Simons +3 73-72=145