Play was briefly halted Sunday at Vanderbilt’s Mason Rudolph Championship, with WKU’s Billy Tom Sargent in the clubhouse leading by two strokes.
It turned out to be just a minor delay in one of the best individual performances in program history.
Sargent shot a 4-under 67 in a final round that featured multiple lightning delays, winning his fifth career title by two shots with a 12-under 201 total. That effort helped the Hilltoppers tie for fourth as a team in a field with 12 top-100 programs.
“I’m really proud of this team and all we have accomplished so far this year,” Sargent said. “We have played some great golf and made great improvements and still have more to come. We are getting better each day, and we can all see it.”
The win ties Sargent with former Hilltopper standout Brent Long for the most individual victories on record in program history with five.
His 201 total is also tied for the second-lowest 54-hole score in program history – one stroke behind Long’s 200 at the 2008 UTSA Roadrunner Intercollegiate.
Sargent finished ahead of 12 top-100 golfers, including six in the top 35 and three in the top 25.
He came into the final round two shots back of Marquette’s Austin Kendziorski after a second-round 65, which gave him the lowest 36-hole score for WKU on record at 134.
Kendziorski fell back with a 5-over 76 on Sunday, but Sargent had to hold off a host of contenders, including Vanderbilt’s Patrick Martin, the 21st-ranked player in the country.
With four holes to go, Martin pulled within one shot of Sargent, but the Hilltopper veteran birdied the par-4 second between three final pars to create separation.
Sargent said he wasn’t looking to be overly aggressive Sunday because of high winds, but he capitalized on opportunities on the green. After an early three-putt – his only of the tournament – he made a 20-footer for birdie on No. 12, two-putted for birdie on No. 14, sank a 60-footer for birdie on No. 17 and two-putted from about 70 feet on No. 18 for birdie.
Sargent finished third in the tournament with 15 total birdies.
“Billy Tom had an incredible event,” WKU head coach Chan Metts said. “Playing his final 36 holes with only one bogey and a 65 on Saturday is really special stuff. I was able to watch most of his closing round, and he was so steady and confident. He had complete control on and around the greens this week, and it was a lot of fun to watch.”
Sargent had to wait to see if his impressive final round would count, as play was suspended for lightning with six groups on the course needing to finish one hole or less.
If they hadn’t been able to conclude the round, the tournament would have reverted to 36 holes and wiped out Sargent’s win. Instead, the skies cleared, and Sargent’s triumph stood.
“Coming into today, I never thought about the leaderboard,” Sargent said. “I just wanted to play solid golf and focus on my game plan. I knew today was going to be tough with the rain and wind, so I just wanted to focus hole by hole and not get ahead of myself.”
It’s Sargent’s second win this season after the 2018 Pinetree Intercollegiate in the fall.
His victory propelled WKU to a tie for fourth in the 17-team field. The Hilltoppers finished with a 1-under 851 tally, its best 54-hole score since shooting an 847 at the 2008 Wyoming Cowboy Classic.
WKU finished tied with No. 67 Kentucky, No. 69 Coastal Carolina and Middle Tennessee. The Hilltoppers tied or ended up ahead of eight teams ranked ahead of them.
Fourth-ranked host Vanderbilt won the team title with an 823 total. No. 20 Liberty finished second, while No. 25 Tennessee placed third.
WKU senior Stuart Easton tied for 32nd with a 214 (70-71-73) tally, while junior Tom Bevington tied for 47th at 217 (67-75-75).
Redshirt junior Linus Lo tied for 53rd at 219 (73-73-73), and sophomore Chase Landrum finished at 233 (74-76-83).
The Hilltoppers have one more event before the Conference USA Championships. They’ll compete in Georgia’s one-day Southern Intercollegiates on April 15 in Athens, Ga.
“This was a great field at a championship course,” Metts said. “This course presents some scoring stretches and then some that are very tough. I feel like our play matched that this week. We played really well in stretches and would gain ground, then struggle to keep that momentum at times. However, I’m pleased with our play in the toughest field we have faced in a long time. Our goal all spring has been to make sure we are trending at the right time, heading into conference. We have achieved that so far. I still don’t feel like we have put an entire tournament together, and that is a positive because I know better golf can still be ahead for us.”
Mason Rudolph Championship First Day Results
1. Billy Tom Sargent (69-65-67-201)
T32. Stuart Easton (70-71-73-214)
T47. Tom Bevington (67-75-75-217)
T53. Linus Lo (73-73-73-219)
T89. Chase Landrum (74-76-83-233)
How to follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper Golf, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUMensGolf.
WKU Athletic Communications/Media Relations