Tide Men's Golf Begins NCAA Play

Golf coaches claim that all they do is "drive the van and hand out golf balls." There's a lot more to it than that, of course, but if a coach does a good job in recruiting, those van rides home are a lot more pleasant.

Alabama Coach Jay Seawell frequently has a little extra baggage when he drives the van back to Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide men's golf trophy case has expanded over the years, including this year's Southeastern Conference championship among a handful of team firsts.

Bama's second-ranked team will be seeking another trophy, and more important a trip to the NCAA Championships, when the Tide begins NCAA postseason action on Thursday. Alabama is the top seed at the NCAA Athens Regional, which will be played at the par-71, 7,253-yard University of Georgia Golf Club.

The 54-hole tournament (Thursday-Saturday) includes 13 teams and 10 individuals from across the nation. The top-five teams at the end of three rounds will advance to the NCAA Championships on May 29-June 3 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. (No, that won't be a van trip.) There are five other regionals supplying teams for the national tournament.

The Tide's starting lineup features senior captain Hunter Hamrick along with the SEC Player of the Year in Justin Thomas and first-team all-conference picks Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt at the top of a potent lineup. Scott Strohmeyer, who has a 73.93 scoring average, completes the Tide lineup.

Alabama boasts four golfers in the top 53 of the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Thomas leads the way at number 4 while Whitsett and Wyatt are ranked 22nd and 23rd, respectively, and Hamrick is 53rd.

Joining the Crimson Tide in the Athens Regional is second-seeded North Florida, No. 3 New Mexico, No. 4 Georgia (host), No. 5 Iowa, No. 6 East Carolina, No. 7 Long Beach State, No. 8 and two-time defending national champion Augusta State, No. 9 Wake Forest, No. 10 Houston, No. 11 Texas-Arlington, No. 12 North Carolina Wilmington, and No. 13 Loyola (Md.).

The NCAA Championships has three rounds of medal play with the top eight teams in a match play playoff for the title. Alabama has advanced to the NCAA Championships in two of the three years under this format.

The Crimson Tide is scheduled to tee off at 7 a.m. (CDT) from the first tee box. UA will be paired with second-seed North Florida and No. 3-seed New Mexico.

This is the eighth straight year that the Crimson Tide has reached a NCAA Regional under Seawell and the ninth time in 10 years. Alabama has made 21 NCAA Tournament appearances and qualified for 13 NCAA Championships in its history.

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