The Alabama men’s golf team of Coach Jay Seawell continued its extraordinary success in its spring-opening tournament in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The Crimson Tide women’s team of Coach Mic Potter didn’t win its tournament in New Orleans, but Bama played very well.
The Alabama men have won three consecutive tournaments going back to last fall as Bama finished pre-Christmas competition with wins in the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate and the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational. And with Monday’s win at the Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, Alabama has won this tournament in five of the past six years and six of the last nine years.
The No. 13 Tide cruised to a nine-stroke victory with a three-day, 54-hole total of 25-under-par 839 (276-287-276).
Alabama was led by junior Robby Shelton, who fired a 7-under par 65 during Tuesday’s final 18 holes and claimed medalist honors with a tournament total of 11-under par 205 (70-70-65). Shelton, who was recently named to the Ben Hogan Award Watch List, captured his third tournament title this season (DICK’s Collegiate Challenge Cup and Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate) and the sixth of his career.
Tide sophomore Jonathan Hardee, who was the leader after 36 holes, finished runner-up at the event. The Greer, S.C., native not only earned a career-best finish, but also carded the lowest 54-hole tournament total during his time at Alabama, as he closed play one stroke back of Shelton with a 10-under par 206 (67-70-69).
“It’s great to get off to a good start to the spring season,” Coach Jay Seawell said. “Everybody did a great job in preparation here. I am really proud of how the team responded today. We won the day with the lead. Robby was terrific today and I thought Jonathan really pushed him. I am proud with how the two of them played and how Robby played with the lead.”
After holding a one-stroke lead after 36 holes, the Tide had four players shoot below par on its way to a 12-under par 276 on Tuesday. As a result, Alabama was eight shots better in the tournament’s final day than its next closest competitor and finished nine strokes ahead of second place finisher No. 11 Clemson (848). Georgia (851), ranked 14th in the nation entering the event, came in third, while Kentucky (853) and No. 16 North Carolina (855) rounded out the top five, respectively.
Freshman Davis Riley tied for 11th with a 3-under par 213 (68-74-71) on the 6,945-yard, par-72 River Course at the Rio Mar Country Club. Sophomore Tyler Hitchner gave the Tide four top-25 golfers who finished under par for the tournament, as the Tuscaloosa native closed play with a 1-under par 215 (71-73-71) and tied for 25th overall. Senior Tom Lovelady rounded out the Alabama golfers as he tied for 49th with a 54-hole total of 223 (74-74-75).
The Tide has now won three consecutive tournament titles for the first time since winning three straight during the spring of 2014.
Alabama will return to action on March 7-9 when it competes at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas, Nev.
The Bama women’s team in New Orleans produced its second consecutive round of even par to finish third at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Championship on the 6,239-yard, par-72 course of the English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans. The seventh-ranked Crimson Tide ended with a 54-hole total of 868 (+4).
“I was proud of our team today,” Coach Mic Potter said. “They did a good job of managing the high winds with their decision-making and ball flight. Although we failed to convert some makeable birdie opportunities, our short games were much better today.”
Seniors Emma Talley and Janie Jackson both finished inside the top 10 on the individual leaderboard. Talley recorded a 1-over 73 on Tuesday to tie for third with a 4-under 212, the eighth top-five finish of her career. Jackson carded an even par 72 over the final 18 holes to tie for seventh at 2-under 214, placing in the top 10 for the fifth time in her career.
Sophomore Nicole Morales came through with the best round of the day for Alabama, firing a 3-under 69 that included four birdies. That effort left her with an overall score of 222 (+6). Fellow sophomore Lakareber Abe and freshman Cheyenne Knight were each 2-over on Tuesday. Abe closed the event at 223 (+7) and Knight was just behind her at 224 (+8).
“Emma and Janie had solid tournaments, finishing third and seventh, respectively,” stated Potter. “I am extremely proud of Nicole for putting together a 69 when we needed her to come through.”
No. 11 Florida held off No. 13 Oklahoma State to claim the team title. The Gators were 5-over for the final round, but finished with a 2-under 862 for the tournament, one stroke ahead of the Cowgirls. No. 12 Arizona took fourth with a total of 870 (+6).
Alabama will be back in action next weekend, traveling to Hilton Head Island, S.C., to compete in the 2016 Darius Rucker Intercollegiate. The tournament, hosted by the University of South Carolina, will be held March 4-6 at the Long Cove Club.