April 18, 2011
The golfing world lost a legend on Monday when Mason Rudolph passed away at the age of 76.
|Mason Rudolph with wife Carol
Since 1992, Rudolph has been an integral part of the Vanderbilt golf program. He spent five seasons as the head coach of the men's program before being named the Director of Golf. In 2002, his title was amended to Director of Golf, emeritus, but his impact on the program did not wane.
The Commodores host an annual fall tournament at the Vanderbilt Legends Club known as the Mason Rudolph Championships.
Mason Rudolph Photo Gallery
"Mason Rudolph was one of the greatest people I have ever been around," VU Men's Golf Head Coach Tom Shaw said. "I never saw him without a smile and without a great story to tell. Mason was a true gentleman and extremely humble, always seeking to put others before himself. You became a better person just by spending a few minutes with Mason Rudolph. We will miss him greatly."
"We lost a great man today and a dear friend to everyone in the Vanderbilt Golf family," VU Women's Golf Head Coach Greg Allen said. "Mason had a very special way of touching lives and his impact will never be forgotten. We had a chance to have dinner with Mason and Carol last year before the SEC Championship. There is no doubt that his presence and his inspiring golf stories that night helped motivate Marina Alex to win the Championship. Our prayers are with Carol, his sons Mason and Griff, his grandkids and all of those that loved Mason Rudolph."
Edgar Mason Rudolph established himself as an elite golfer at a young age. He qualified for the 1950 U.S. Open at the age of 16 and was the youngest player to compete at the event for many years. Later that same year, Rudolph became the first 16-year-old to win the prestigious USGA National Junior Amateur Championship.
At nearby Clarksville High School, Rudolph won back-to-back TSSAA championships in 1951 and 1952. He would go on to represent a victorious United States side as a member of the 1957 Walker Cup team.
His accomplishments as a junior player did not go unnoticed. In 1999, Rudolph was selected by Golf World magazine as one of the Top 10 Best Junior Boys of the 20th Century.
Rudolph played collegiate golf at the University of Tennessee and Memphis State (now the University of Memphis) before being called into military service.
After serving, Rudolph joined the PGA Tour in 1959 and was named the Rookie of the Year. He won five official PGA Tour events during a 21-year career, playing 15 Masters and 16 U.S. Open Championships. Rudolph also was a six-time winner of the Tennessee State Open (1956, '59, '63, '64, '66 and '72).
In 1971, Rudolph again was selected to represent his country, this time on a Ryder Cup team that included Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and J.C. Snead. Again, Rudolph's American side took the event.
Rudolph was elected as a charter inductee into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame in 1990, and was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
Rudolph is survived by his wife, the former Carol Griffin, and two sons, Mason II and Griff. The couple tragically lost son Craig in a 1998 helicopter crash.
A Memorial Service will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20th at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN with a Memorial Reception at the Golf House of Tennessee (400 Franklin Road, Franklin, TN) immediately following the service. Visitation will be at McReynolds Nave Larson Funeral Home in Clarksville, TN on Thursday, April 21st at 10:00 a.m. Burial will follow at 11:30 at Greenwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to Tennessee Junior Golf, Golf House of Tennessee, 400 Franklin Road, Franklin, TN 37069, and Hospice of West Alabama, 3851 Loop Road, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35404. www.hospiceofwestalabama.org
The following links provide more information on the life of Mason Rudolph. The first is an obituary from his hometown newspaper in Clarksville, Tenn. The second is a 2009 feature from his home for the past few years, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Clarksville Leaf Chronicle article
Spring 2009 Tuscaloosa Magazine article
Quotes on Mason Rudolph
Tennessee Golf Foundation President Dick Horton
"I've known Mason since March of 1973. He was truly a delight. Mason will be missed greatly by many, many people. He was the best possible representative for the game of golf in Tennessee, and you won't find anybody that didn't have the utmost respect for him as a person.
"As a player, he didn't get the notoriety of Nicklaus and Palmer, but they sure had the utmost respect for him. He was model of a consistency and holds a number of unofficial records that not many people would know about. In the 60's, he played 105 consecutive events without hitting a ball out of bounds.
"Mason was a wonderful family man. I can count on one hand the times that I saw him and Carol wasn't by his side. They worshipped each other."
VU Head Men's Golf Coach Tom Shaw
"Mason Rudolph was one of the greatest people I have ever been around. I never saw him without a smile and without a great story to tell. Mason was a true gentleman and extremely humble, always seeking to put others before himself. You became a better person just by spending a few minutes with Mason Rudolph. We will miss him greatly."
VU Head Women's Golf Coach Greg Allen
"We lost a great man today and a dear friend to everyone in the Vanderbilt Golf family. Mason had a very special way of touching lives and his impact will never be forgotten. We had a chance to have dinner with Mason and Carol last year before the SEC Championship. There is no doubt that his presence and his inspiring golf stories that night helped motivate Marina Alex to win the Championship. Our prayers are with Carol, his sons Mason and Griff, his grandkids and all of those that loved Mason Rudolph."
Former Commodore All-American and current PGA Tour professional Brandt Snedeker
"Mason was instrumental in helping me become a better golfer, but more importantly a better person. Mason and his wife Carol were out at practice nearly every day, and he was always smiling and had a great outlook on life. Mason had a great career and was a legend in the golfing community, but I'll miss him more for who he was as a person. This is a sad day for Vanderbilt and anyone who loves golf. He will be dearly missed."
Former VU All-American and Assistant Women's Golf Coach and current Princeton Head Coach Nicki Cutler
"It's a sad day for Vanderbilt golf and for everyone that Mason touched. It immediately brought a tear to my eye when I heard the news. I also feel very fortunate to have known him and to have talked to him about his time in the game of golf. I used to love going out to the course knowing that he would be out there with a big smile and encouraging words for me. They say some people just have a way of connecting with people, and he had that gift. They don't make them like Mason anymore."
Former VU All-American and current Nationwide Tour member Luke List
"Mason always took the time to lend a helping hand. I will always cherish his stories and advice. What an honor to spend four years with such a decorated athlete. He had such a passion for golf and life that was truly contagious. Mason Rudolph was a legend of the game that will be missed forever."
Former VU Head Men's Golf Coach and current East Carolina Head Coach Press McPhaul
"Mason was the model of a gentleman. He was completely free with his time; I can't recall an instance where I needed his assistance and he didn't make himself fully available. He had a great ability to teach everything he'd learned in so many years of playing golf for a living, but he was always so humble.
"One thing that we always saw was how much he loved his wife. She was his top priority and they were smitten with each other. For myself and the college kids, he was a great example of what a man should be. That was significant."
Former VU Head Women's Golf Coach and current Texas Head Coach Martha Richards
"He touched all of our lives in so many positive ways. For Press and I as young head coaches, having Mason around as a voice of wisdom made such a huge difference. He had these pearls of wisdom, his 'Masonisms,' like, 'Hit it where they can put a mower on it.' I still use that and give him full credit.
"He had a huge impact on the lives of all Vanderbilt golfers. We always made a point to spend time with him and Carol. Any time you were around him you left feeling better - he was just one of those really unique human beings that you felt fortunate to know. It's really sad that I'm not gonna see him anymore when we come back for the Mason Rudolph Championships."