Tide Men's Golf Begins NCAA Play

For almost a year, the Alabama men's golf team has been waiting to get back into position to win the national championship. Last year's Crimson Tide squad got down to the last group on the final hole tied for the championship, but lost to Texas.

The Alabama team of Coach Jay Seawell has been ranked first or second through most of this year (currently second) and has been on a roll as the Crimson Tide begins NCAA Tournament play this week.

Bama will compete in the Baton Rouge Regional Thursday-Saturday at the University Club of Baton Rouge. The Tide is the number one seed in the 54-hole event over the 7,436-yard par 72 course. Alabama tees off at 8 a.m. CDT Thursday and will be paired with Florida and LSU in the first two rounds.

Four teams ranked in the Golf World/Nike Coaches' Poll are in Baton Rouge. In addition to Bama at No. 2 are No. 15 Florida, No. 18 LSU, and No. 24 Mississippi State. No. 5-seed Houston, No. 6-seed Northwestern and No. 7-seed Tennessee are receiving votes in the poll. South Alabama is the No. 8 seed, followed by Coastal Carolina (9), UAB (10), Wichita State (11), Southeastern Louisiana (12) and Houston Baptist (13). There are also four individuals at the Baton Rouge Regional: Jonathan Grey (Georgia State), Tomasz Anderson (Jacksonville State), Alex Ellis (College of Charleston), and Kamito Hirai (Winthrop).

The top five teams at the end of 54 holes will advance to the NCAA Championships on May 28-June 2 on the Crabapple Course at the Capital City Club in Woodstock, Ga. The highest individual that is not on a qualifying team will also advance.

Seawell hasn't become the two-time Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year by making mistakes, and he will send the same line-up that has won the last three tournaments onto the University Club course. They are junior Cory Whitsett, sophomore Justin Thomas, junior Bobby Wyatt, senior Scott Strohmeyer, and junior Trey Mullinax.

Whitsett leads the team with a 70.84 scoring average, which leads the SEC and ranks seventh nationally. Thomas is also under par for the season at 71.16 while Wyatt is just two strokes over par at 71.45.

In addition to Seawell being coach of the year for the third time in his Crimson Tide career, Whitsett was named the SEC Men's Golfer of the Year. Whitset was also a tri-winner of the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was a first-team All-SEC selection along with Thomas and Wyatt. Mullinax as named to the All-SEC second team.

Wyatt and Thomas have been named as two of 10 semifinalists for the 2013 Ben Hogan Award. The Hogan is presented annually to the top men's NCAA Division I, II or III, NAIA or NJCAA college golfer taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions during a 12-month period. Thomas has captured two medalist honors during his second year at The Capstone and has a 71.16 scoring average. He played for the victorious United States World Amateur team in Turkey this past fall and advanced to the semifinals of the 2012 U.S. Amateur. He is ranked fourth in the World Amateur Rankings. Wyatt boasts six top-five finishes in 10 events this season and was the medalist at the 2012 U.S. Amateur, advancing to the round of 16. He is rated No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

Alabama boasts four golfers in the top 30 of the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and three among the top eight. Whitsett leads the way at No. 3 with Wyatt fifth, and Thomas eighth. Mullinax is 29th, Strohmeyer is 90th.

Alabama will be playing in its ninth consecutive NCAA Golf Regional and 10th in the last 11 years under Seawell. Alabama won the NCAA Athens (Ga.) Regional in 2012 on its way to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships. The Crimson Tide also won the NCAA Galloway (N.J.) Regional title in 2009. Bama has 22 total appearances in the NCAA Men's Golf Tournament

The 1975 team that featured Crimson Tide legend Jerry Pate earned UA's best finish (third) in the NCAA finals prior to the runner-up finish last year.

This year, Alabama won the SEC Championship for the third time under the guideance of Seawell. Alabama has appeared in six NCAA Championship Finals with Seawell (2005, 07-09, 11-12). His teams have won 31 tournament titles over the last 11 years, including the 2009 and 2012 NCAA Regional titles. The Tide also finished first in the stroke-play portion of the 2012 NCAA Championships. UA has won a school-record six times in 2012-13, tying the mark set in 2007-08. Alabama also has the school record with four consecutive wins (which came in the last four tournaments).

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