Tide Men's Golf Seeks NCAA Title

Alabama two-time All-America Bud Cauley has a reputation among the nation's elite college golfers as being a "quiet assassin." His coach says it's because Cauley doesn't say much and he is focused on winning. His teammates want his career to go out with a bang in the NCAA Championship Tournament.

Although Bud Cauley is just finishing up his junior season, the NCAA Tournament at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., will be the final college tournament for the Jacksonville, Fla., native. Cauley, who has re-written the Alabama golf scoring record book, told his coach and teammates in January that he would turn professional following the NCAA Tournament.

Alabama is one of 30 teams that will begin play over the demanding 7,416-yard, par 72 course Tuesday. After 54 holes of medal play, the field will be cut to eight teams playing match play, concluding with the championship event on Sunday, June 5.

There is no question about the favorite in the tournament. Oklahoma State is the nation's top-ranked golf team and the tournament is being played on the Cowboys' home course.

But Bama is not backing down.

"We can just give them the trophy, or we can look at it like we're playing the same tees, the same greens, the same course," said Alabama Coach Jay Seawell.

Alabama shouldn't be cowed. Four times this year the Crimson Tide and Cowboys have been in the same tournament and twice Alabama was the winner. The Tide, the third seed in the NCAA Tournament, has not finished worse than fourth in any tournament this season and has a head-to-head record against all teams of 111-19 in its 10 stroke play events. Bama defeated Oklahoma State by winning the Isleworth Collegiate and the Puerto Rico Classic.

Alabama has five tournament victories this season. Others are the Carpet Capital, Palmetto, and Linger Longer.

As a team, Alabama is under two-under-par for the season, 10 tournaments and 30 rounds.

Cauley is the best of a very fine group of Alabama players. This season he averaged 70.39 (-.70), which is second in the nation, with 20 of his 33 rounds being under par and three even par. In 88 career rounds at Bama he has averaged 71.25. Both are school records. In his career, he has 28 rounds in the 60s and 42 rounds under par.

Of course, Alabama is not a one-man team. Cauley is joined by fellow junior Hunter Hamrick, who is making his second NCAA Tournament start and has a 72.39 average this year.

"I've having about the same year I had last year, but I've been kind of overlooked because they have been so good," Hamrick said.

"They" are the fabulous freshmen, particularly Cory Whitsett, the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and first team All-SEC. Indeed, Whitsett has a chance to be Alabama's first ever freshman to make first team All-America this year. He is ranked 10th in the nation with his 71.03 scoring average.

He is joined on the Freshman All-SEC Team by Bobby Wyatt, who was injured much of the season but still managed a 71.96 scoring average.

A pleasant surprise has been freshman Trey Mullinax, who had been expected to be redshirted, but who played in all seven spring events. He had a best round of 67 and averaged 73.19.

Alabama's scoring and winning has been against top competition on tough courses, the Tide's schedule ranking among the 10 most difficult in the nation.

Seawell says this is the best team he has taken to an NCAA Championship Tournament, and five of his last seven teams have made it. In great part it is because of Cauley, who is ranked fourth in the nation individually. "I think he's the best player in the country," Seawell said. "We knew when he came here he was a great player. He has become a great leader."

Seawell had a nice example of that leadership.

When Cauley told his coach in January that he would turn pro after this season, Seawell told him to keep up his class work. Cauley, the son of a Navy diver father and teacher mother who home-schooled him, had a 3.33 grade point average going into this semester.

His last semester at Alabama he made a 4.0--all As—and he's on schedule to earn his degree in communications.

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