The MTSU men’s golf heads into its first ever Conference USA tournament on April 27 in Edmond, Okla. on a small downswing.
The Blue Raiders have not been pleased with their performance during the last two tournaments. The team finished tied for 10th at the Reunion Intercollegiate in Mississippi under very windy conditions last week.
“There are a little bit on their heels right now,” MTSU head coach Whit Turnbow said. “We have not played real well the last two weeks. We have played pretty average. We are getting set to go to Oklahoma City, which is going to be windy there. We’ve got a few days to try to get the ball around the wind and around the golf course.
“They are confident because they have had a good spring. It is just you want to peak at the right time and play your best golf at the right time. We’ve got some work to do, and we’ve got some things to shore up. We’ve got a few days to get it together.”
During last week’s tournament in Mississippi, which was shortened to 36 holes because of several weather delays, the Blue Raiders had their worst finish of the spring. Junior Brett Patterson was the top MTSU player with a 147, which placed him tied for 12th. However, he was the leader after the first round on April 14.
Now the Blue Raiders head to the Oak Tree County Club in Oklahoma for their first ever trip to the Conference USA Championships after making the move from the Sun Belt last summer. Fourteen teams will take part in the three-round, three-day event. Turnbow knows it will be a tough challenge since the wind will be a factor on the east course since the Sooner state is known for it during the spring months.
“Anytime you go to Oklahoma in the spring time, you are going to get wind. The courses are flat and not a whole lot to block out the wind,” he said. “You are exposed to the elements. The wind dictates how the golf course will play. You’ve got to be able to control the golf ball and keep it as close to the ground as you can.
“We have not done so hot in those conditions. We’ve got a few days of preparation in front of us to deal with that. I think by the time the gun goes off we will be ready.”
Besides the last two spring tournaments, which the Blue Raiders had their two worst finishes of the season (ninth and 10th), the team had finished in the top five during the three previous tournaments. One of those was a win at the General Hackler Championship on March 10-11 in Murrells Inlet, S.C., on the TPC Myrtle Beach course. On that day, three Blue Raiders shot a three-round total score of 222, Lucas Armstrong, Payne Denman and Patterson led the team to victory.
Turnbow believes the performance and experience from it should be enough to get the Blue Raiders into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team if they don’t win the C-USA championships.
“That event got them in a position to receive an at-large bid should we not win the C-USA tournament,” he said. “That is always the goal for us is to put ourselves in position. We schedule and play for at-large bids. When we get to this point in the year, we hope to be a spot to go if we do not win the C-USA tournament. We get in anyway. That is the goal for us year-in and year-out. We are well inside the number to get in. We’ve got to go out there and have a good week and prove to the committee we deserve to get in.”