Remembering 1973 NCAA Golf Trip

The Alabama men's golf team is going to Stillwater, Okla., for the NCAA Championship Tournament next week. The first Alabama men's golf team to make the NCAA Championship Tournament field was in 1973, and that Crimson Tide squad also played in Stillwater.

In 1973, Alabama was coached by Conrad Rehling, who was Alabama's first full-time golf coach. Prior to Crimson Tide Athletics Director Paul Bryant hiring Rehling from Florida in 1972, the Bama golf team had been coached primarily by assistant football coaches who were good golfers (i.e., Gene Stallings, Steve Sloan) or local pros.

This year the tournament will be played at Karsten Creek. In 1973 the venue was Stillwater Country Club.

A few days before the 1973 tournament was to begin, I learned that Coach Rehling had a previous commitment on the practice day in Stillwater and that I would be taking the team out for its first look at the course. I was assistant sports information director at Alabama in those days and golf was one of the sports I handled. I also played from time-to-time with Coach Rehling and with the Tide players.

We loaded up the school airplane with bags and players, which was quite a treat. Not many of the teams in Stillwater came by school plane. Don Farnsworth, one of The University pilots and a longtime friend, flew us out and stayed throughout the tournament, then flew us back.

My job was easy. Bama had good players who were also good people, so the chaperone role was a cinch. I walked the course with the guys as they played a practice round and I felt good about their chances.

Coach Rehling came in the next day and we didn't play so well. We ended up finishing 17th.

Jerry Pate is the best known of the players who was on that team. He was a sophomore then and would really make his name following the 1974 season, when he would win the U.S. Amateur. Of course, he went on to a fine (though injury-shortened) pro career that included winning the U.S. Open. He is one of the world's great golf course designers.

Others on the team were Tony Hollifield, Tab Hudson, Ray Cox, Wheeler Stewart, and Alan Pate.

One thing I remember: after our guys had finished their first round I went out on the course to watch other players with Oklahoma State's sports information director. They were selling beer on the course and I stopped at a stand to buy one. The woman told me that I couldn't buy a beer. She thought I was one of the players.

I'm pretty sure if they are selling beer at Karsten Creek I wouldn't have any trouble getting one.

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