Clash Of Titans In NCAA Golf
Just over two years ago, it was Alabama's second-ranked football team meeting top-ranked Texas for the national championship in a game played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. That worked out pretty well for the Crimson Tide as Bama handled the Longhorns, 37-21.
On Saturday, Alabama and Texas both won semifinals matches over the Riviera Country Club course in Pacific Palisades, Calif., to move into Sunday's championship finals. The Crimson Tide and Longhorns will be playing for the national championship. Play will begin at noon CDT (10 a.m. Pacific time).
Although Bama won the three-day stroke play segment of the NCAA Tournament to secure the top seed for the three days of match play, throughout the year Texas (which is the third seed in the NCAA match play segment of the championship tournament) was ranked number one and the Crimson Tide was number two.
Both teams had difficult semifinals matches to make it to the championship competition. Alabama scraped by fourth seed California and Texas edged seventh seed Oregon, both by 3-2 scores.
In Alabama's final match of the day, senior Hunter Hamrick staved off a charge from his California counterpart on Saturday to secure the Crimson Tide's spot in the finals of the NCAA Men's Golf Championships at The Riviera Country Club.
Cal is a great golf team," Alabama Voach Jay Seawell said. "We knew that. We told the team last night to expect from hole one to hole 18 to be in a battle. We played with them the first two days, and they are built very similar to our team. They have five very good players, and they do not have any holes. I don't think we have any holes.
"We knew every match could go to the 18th and I think every match went to 17. Everybody battled. It came down to our captain just hanging on."
Hamrick, the Montgomery native who is the Tide's lone senior, opened up a 4-up lead after seven holes but saw California's Joel Stalter mount a charge over the final 11 holes. Stalter won the eighth with par, the 12th with birdie and 13th with par to get within one hole.
"I got off to a really good start," Hamrick said. "I birdied three in a row in the middle of the front nine and built a nice lead. I knew … he was going to be a fighter. When I got up, I was trying to bury him because I knew he would push me until the end, and he did. I didn't mess up too much and he just kept coming at me."
The key hole of the match played out on the par 3, 189-yard 14th hole. Stalter hit it stiff and forced Hamrick to connect on his putt to keep from squaring the match with four holes to play.
"He (Stalter) birdied 12, which I don't think anyone is birdieing 12 today," Hamrick said. "I hit a couple of bad shots on 13 and lost that hole. We got to 14 and I had to make about a 10-footer to tie the hole, and I made it. Right there, to keep my lead at 1 up, that was a big putt for me."
Along with Hamrick's 1-up win, Alabama received another 1-up win from junior Scott Strohmeyer, who made par on 18 to secure the Tide's second point. Cory Whitsett closed out Brandon Hagy with a birdie on the 17th for a 3 & 1 win.
Justin Thomas fell 2 & 1 to Cal's Max Homa while Bobby Wyatt also lost to the Bears' Michael Kim 2 & 1.
Texas's number one player was also beaten, Dylan Frittelli falling 2-up. The Longhorns number 5 player, Toni Hakula, was a 3&1 winner; number 4 Cody Gribble won 2&1; and number two Julio Vargas won 2-up. Number three Jordan Spieth was a 1-up loser.
There were 30 teams when the tournament started Monday. After Wednesday there were eight eligible for the match play competition. Now there are two.
The Crimson Tide is in search of the school's first national championship in men's golf, but its fourth national title as a school during the 2011-12 academic year (football, women's gymnastics and women's golf).
Bobby Wyatt vs. Toni Hakula
Cory Whitsett vs. Dylan Frittelli
Scott Strohmeyer vs. Cody Gribble
Justin Thomas vs. Jordan Stieth
Hunter Hamrick vs. Julio Vegas
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