Alabama Men's Golf Wins National Title
The Alabama team of Coach Jay Seawell, denied the 2012 title on the final hole, was in control almost from the start with a solid 4-1 win over Illinois on the 7,319-yard, par-70 Crab Apple Course at the Capital City Club in Milton, Ga., on the outskirts of Atlanta.
The first three matches went to Alabama, including Bobby Wyatt starting things off for Bama by winning the first seven holes of his match and going on to an easy win. After Trey Mullinax upset the top player for Illinois, Cory Whitsett closed out his match and the team match with a convincing 4&3 win.
A year ago Whitsett had been in the final twosome on the final hole in a tie match against Texas in the NCAA finals and the Longhorns won the hole and the national championship.
"I think (what happened last year) makes it more special," Seawell said when asked about last year's loss. "It makes you appreciate it a great deal more. It is so hard to even get here. This team has been on a mission, a mission, a mission. That is the leadership of Scott Strohmeyer and all of the guys on this team. It is their championships and we won today because of them."
It was the first national championship for the Alabama men's golf program and comes a year after the women's golf team won its first national championship. It was the first Alabama national championship for Bill Battle in his role as Crimson Tide director of athletics. And it was Alabama's second national championship of the academic year, sixth in the past two years, and eighth since 2009. It was the first national championship for Alabama in a men's sport other than football.
Bobby Wyatt led off the tournament for Alabama and won the first seven holes en route to his 6&5 victory over Thomas Detry. He was seven-under-par after five holes. Even with a bogey on No. 9, Wyatt shot 31 on the front side. Wyatt closed out the match with a birdie on No. 13 when he holed out a flop shot.
Regarding Wyatt, Seawell said, "Wow. Bobby on the driving range this morning looked like somebody I don't think Tiger Woods would have wanted to face while I watched him warm up. I didn't even know he was seven up through seven. I wasn't even watching him he was so far out in front. That was a great, great start for us. It gave us that one point, and then all you need is two more."
Trey Mullinax, Bama's No. 4 player, won the last hole with a par to defeat Illinois's No. 1 player, Charlie Danielson, 1-up. Mullinax trailed at only one point in the match, after the first hole, but never had more than a 1-hole lead. On 12 holes the match was all square.
Scott Strohmeyer, Bama's only senior, won consecutive holes 14, 15, and 16, to defeat Brian Campbell, 3&2. Until his win on the 14th, neither player had more than a 1-up lead and 11 holes were halved. Strohmeyer also won the 12th to even the match.
Strohmeyer said, "I made a big putt on 12 for birdie to go all square, and coach gave me the read on the putt. I would've missed it, if I hadn't asked him for a read. Seeing the putt go in gave me a lot of confidence. On the next hole, I made a great par putt to halve the hole, and that might've rattled him, but it gave me a lot of confidence and allowed me to settle down. (Campbell} played great. He didn't give me anything; I had to beat him."
Cory Whitsett went out to an early lead, building to a 5-0 advantage at the turn. Whitsett had to withstand a comeback by Alex Burge early on the back nine; Burge was at minus three with four holes to play. Whitsett closed him out with a halve on 15 for a 4&3 win. With Wyatt and Mullinax already in with victories, the win by Whitsett clinched the national championship for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama's only loss was Justin Thomas falling 1-up to Thomas Pieters, the 2012 NCAA individual national champion for Illinois. Pieters won the first hole of the day with a birdie. Thomas got it even with a birdie on two, and then Thomas bogeyed three. Pieters then kept either a 1- or 2-hole lead until Thomas squared the match with wins at 13 and 15. Pieters, however, won the 16th and held on for the win.
After finishing third in the 54-hole stroke play portion of the tournament, Alabama downed New Mexico by 4-1 and the host team, Georgia Tech, 3-0-2, to reach the match play finals. Illinois reached the finals with its upset of No. 1 ranked California, which had won the stroke play competition by six strokes and was the top seed. The Illini had been the fifth seed going into the tournament.
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