The MTSU men’s golf team is back in the NCAA Tournament after missing last year’s event. It is the sixth trip in seven years for the program.
The Blue Raiders will be heading to Columbia, Mo., for the NCAA Regional on May 15-17 as the No. 10 seed.
The selections were made on May 5 during an episode of the The Morning Drive on the Golf Channel. MTSU will play at The Club at Old Hawthorne for the 14-team NCAA regional which begins on May 15. Blue Raiders head coach Whit Turnbow was happy with the team’s selection.
“Each team is different, and each team that got there worked extremely hard to get there,” Turnbow said. “This team right here moved up 35 spots in the rankings in the month of March, and they worked really hard. They put themselves in position in front of the committee to get the nod. I know they are excited and ready to get going.”
It will be a loaded field for the regional, which includes several nationally ranked teams like No. 2 ranked Oklahoma State, No. 11 Virginia, No. 14 LSU, No. 24 Arkansas and No. 26 Arizona State. Currently, the Blue Raiders are ranked No. 59 in the nation. MTSU knows it will face some tough competition on a challenging golf course during the 54-hole tournament.
“It is a course that nobody knows,” Turnbow said. “So, we are going to have to do a really good job on Wednesday during the practice round. We got to get some good notes, and really understand how to play the golf course. Practice next week is going to be vital to us. We got to get up there and see it for ourselves. It is a pretty good golf course for us, and it is similar to some of the ones we have around here. We are looking forward to getting up there and see what it is all about.”
After struggling in its last regular season tournament, the Blue Raiders turned it around during the Conference USA Championships on April 29 by finishing fifth during the event. Also, all five players for MTSU finished in the top 25. Junior Brett Patterson led the way for them with a three-round score of 219, which placed him tied for 15th. Turnbow believes he has seen a turnaround in the team heading into the NCAAs.
“It is a funny game we play, and it comes and goes,” Turnbow said. “Somedays you have it, and somedays you do not. You just try to weather those times when it gets away from you a little bit. That week we played a little bit better and that finish moved us up in the rankings. That finish helped us secure an at-large bid and speaks for the depth of Conference USA.”
So far this season, Patterson has led MTSU to its success this season. He leads the team with a 73.0 stroke average, and this will be his third NCAA appearance. Senior Jordan Jennings and junior Andrew Cho will be playing in their second NCAA tournament for the Blue Raiders, who qualified for Blue Raiders regional appearances in 2000, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
“It will help them tremendously,” Turnbow said. “Experience is something you need in these events. We’ve got some guys who have played in a couple of these. They know what to expect, and they know the golf course is going to be set up really difficult. The competition is as difficult as you will see all year. I got a battle tested bunch of guys. At the end of year going into postseason play that is what you want.”
The five teams with the lowest scores in each of the six regionals will advance to the NCAA National Championships on May 23-28 at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. The Blue Raiders last made the NCAA Championships in 2008 and finished 15th in the nation.