1950 U.S. Junior Amateur Champion Rudolph Dies

By David Shefter
April 18, 2011

Mason Rudolph won the 1950 U.S. Junior and was a member of the 1957 USA Walker Cup Team. (USGA Museum)

Mason Rudolph, the 1950 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, died on April 18 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., from an undisclosed illness. He was 76.

Rudolph, who reached the final of the 1949 U.S. Junior Amateur at Congressional Country Club where he lost to Gay Brewer, was one of Tennessee’s all-time best amateurs. The Clarksville, Tenn., native claimed the 1950 U.S. Junior by defeating Charles Beville, 2 and 1, at Denver (Colo.) Country Club. That same year, he qualified for the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club at the age of 16 years, 6 days. He was the youngest player in the field and remains one of the youngest to ever play in the U.S. Open.

In 1956, Rudolph won the prestigious Western Amateur and the Tennessee State Open. He would go on to claim his state’s Open title five more times as a professional.

Rudolph was also a member of the 1957 USA Walker Cup Team that defeated Great Britain and Ireland, 8-3, at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. He posted a 1-0-1 overall record, including a victory in singles.

Rudolph then embarked on a successful professional career that included winning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors in 1959 and playing on the 1971 Ryder Cup Team. His first PGA Tour win came at the 1959 Golden Gate Championship and his last occurred at the 1970 Green Island Open Invitational. He posted six top-10 finishes in major championships, including a tie for eighth in the 1966 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. His best finish in a major was a tie for third place in the 1973 PGA Championship.

After playing a few years on the Champions Tour, Rudolph, a charter member of the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame, served as Vanderbilt University’s golf coach, attracting 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Brandt Snedeker to the school, and director of golf at Gaylord Springs in Nashville. A nine-hole golf course in his hometown of Clarksville is named Mason Rudolph Golf Course, and Vanderbilt hosts an annual men’s and women’s intercollegiate event, the Mason Rudolph Championships.

Rudolph endured a family tragedy in 1998 when his son, Craig, who played on the PGA Tour in 1991 before becoming a club professional in Charlotte, N.C., was killed in a helicopter crash after the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race.

Rudolph is survived by his wife of 52 years, Carol Griffin Rudolph, sons Edgar Mason Rudolph, Jr. and Griffin Hill Rudolph and six grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for April 20 at 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, with a memorial reception taking place at the Golf House of Tennessee in Franklin immediately following the service. Visitation will be at McReynolds Nave Larson Funeral Home in Clarksville on April 21 at 10 a.m. A burial will follow at 11:30 a.m. 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 or to the Hospice of West Alabama, 3851 Loop Road, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404.

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