FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- The Ball State men’s golf team established itself near the top of the leaderboard for much of Friday’s opening round at the Mason Rudolph Championship.
A challenging finish dropped the Cardinals into a tie for eighth by day’s end, but they remain in the hunt on the South Course at the Vanderbilt Legends Club. Ball State is 11 over par following a round of 295, competing in a field that features some of the best teams in the country.
Top-ranked Alabama is the only team under par after a round of 281 (-3). The Crimson Tide owns a seven-stroke lead on second-place Kennesaw State (+4). The next seven teams, including Ball State, are all within six shots of each other.
Ball State is only six strokes behind 14th-ranked Vanderbilt, this week’s host. The Cardinals are five shots ahead of 12th-ranked Florida State. Of the tournament’s 14 teams, 10 are ranked among the top 80 nationally by Golfstat.
Three Ball State players stand in the top 20 on the individual leaderboard, including McCormick Clouser in a tie for ninth. The junior from Bluffton, Ind., carded a round of level-par 71 and is even with or ahead of nine of the nation’s top 100 players.
Clouser is four strokes behind tournament leader Zach Munroe of College of Charleston. Munroe opened with a 67 (-4) and holds a two-shot lead over a trio of players at 2 under.
The Cardinals also counted a 78 from James Blackwell and dropped an 82 from Zach Yinger. Yinger bounced back from a tough opening nine holes to post the best second nine of any of the Ball State golfers with a 34.
Clouser and McKinney each made the turn at 2 under to lead an early charge for a Ball State team that started its day on the back side of the South Course. The Cardinals were tied for second place as a team into the middle of their second nine. But after playing the first 13 holes in 3 over par, the four counters for Ball State combined to play the last five holes in 8 over.
Still, the Cardinals will enter Saturday in a good position. Ball State will be grouped with East Tennessee State and Mercer for the second round, which is slated to begin Saturday at 8 a.m. CT (9 a.m. ET). The final round will be played Sunday.
Live scoring throughout the tournament is available at golfstat.com.
For the most up-to-date news on Ball State men’s golf, follow @bsuathletics, @BallStateMGolf and @mikefleck on Twitter.