Bama Golf Hosts Pate Invitational

Number three-ranked Alabama will attempt to defend its title at the 25th annual Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate golf tournament against a strong field on the Old Overton Club in Vestavia Hills, suburban Birmingham, beginning today.

The Alabama team of Coach Jay Seawell has taken the team title at the Pate the past four years dating back to 2006, but this year's competition includes the nation's top team.

This year's field includes No. 1 Florida, as well as No. 15 Auburn, UNLV, SMU, Mississippi State, UAB, Georgia State, South Alabama, Memphis, Samford and Southern Miss.

The teams will play 36 holes on Monday and then conclude with the final 18 holes on Tuesday.

The Jerry Pate Intercollegiate began back in 1986 and is named for the most successful professional golfer in Crimson Tide history. Pate currently plays on the Champions Tour and is active in the team selection for the tournament.

Since its inception, the JPNI has seen some powerful names in the world of golf win its individual title. Current PGA Tour golfers Rory Sabbatini, Hunter Mahan and D.J. Trahan have all won medalist honors at the Pate, and arguably the greatest golfer of all-time, Tiger Woods, won the JPNI in 1994 while competing for Stanford. David Kirkpatrick (1991), Joseph Sykora (2006), Mark Harrell (2007) and Hunter Hamrick (2009) all took medalist honors for Alabama.

In just nine short years at the helm of the Alabama men's golf program, Seawell has resurrected the proud tradition once held at The Capstone and established the Crimson Tide as one of the elite programs in the nation.

Under his guidance and leadership, Alabama has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances and four NCAA Championships berths - including four of the last six. From 2007-09, Seawell's teams finished sixth, 13th and 15th, respectively, in the NCAA Championships while the 2008 team also captured the school's first Southeastern Conference Championship since 1979. Moreover, with a victory last year at the NCAA Northeast Regional, the Crimson Tide captured the first regional title in the history of men's golf team.

"We are now looked at by players all across the country as a formidable place to come play college golf," Seawell said. "They know they will play a great schedule, have a chance to get better and they have a chance to win a championship – that's what they want."

With the success the Crimson Tide has seen over the past several years, not only has it reestablished Alabama as one of the nation's elite programs, but it has energized the Tide's alumni base and created an excitement for Alabama golf not seen in recent memory.

"(UA Athletics Director) Coach Mal Moore wanted to change the facilities situation here at Alabama for both our programs," Seawell said. "By building the Jerry Pate Golf Center at Ol' Colony, it gave us the opportunity to go out outside of our own backyard and get recruits. Where we've come, we're able to knock on a few more doors and get a few more phone calls answered."

Under Seawell, Alabama has been able to attract top-notch talent from all over the South. In 2008-09, then true freshman Bud Cauley garnered second-team PING All-America honors and first-team honors from Golfweek. He was also named first-team All-SEC and the SEC Freshman of the Year. He won medalist honors at the United State Collegiate Championship while then sophomore Hunter Hamrick was the medalist at the NCAA Northeast Regional. Cauley was also a semifinalist for the Ben Hogan Award and selected to play for the Americans at the 2009 Walker Cup and the 2009 Palmer Cup. Cauley then followed that with All-America honors again in 2009-10 and was named one of three finalist for the Ben Hogan Award.

This season Cauley and Hamrick were joined by two of the most heralded freshman golfers ever to set foot in Tuscaloosa. Cory Whitsett, the 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and Bobby Wyatt, a four-time winner of the Alabama Boys' State Junior Championship will pair to form an outstanding mix of youth and experience at the top of the Crimson Tide's lineup.

"Because of the facilities and because of a few guys who took a chance five or six years ago, the Mark Harrells, the Matthew Swans, the Gator Todds, the Joseph Sykoras, the Michael Thompsons, we became a household name in college golf," Seawell said. "Those guys believed in a vision of making this place a great college golf town. And they did. They need as much credit as anybody."

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