The No. 9 Alabama men's golf team begins the 2016 postseason this weekend when it competes at the Southeastern Conference championship, easily the nation’s toughest conference championship event. The three day, 54-hole event will be held Friday-Sunday at the Sea Island Golf Club on the par-70, 6,898-yard Seaside Course.
The Crimson Tide of Coach Jay Seawell will be in search of its sixth SEC team title and fourth crown in the last five years when it heads to compete at this weekend’s event.
It won’t be easy.
Of the 14 teams in the conference, five are ranked in the Golfweek/Sagarin Top 10, while 10 are ranked in the top 35.
The ninth-ranked Crimson Tide will battle for the title with No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Florida, No. 12 South Carolina, No. 13 Auburn, No. 23 Arkansas, No. 28 Texas A&M, and No. 35 Kentucky, along with Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Alabama is playing well heading in to the postseason as it ended the regular season with four team victories – all coming in its last six stroke play events.
Junior Robby Shelton will be playing at the No. 1 slot to lead the Crimson Tide into this weekend’s competition. Shelton, who was recently named as a Ben Hogan Award semifinalist for the third consecutive year, owns a team-best 70.08 strokes per round average on the season.
Shelton has captured three medalist honors this year at the Collegiate Challenge Cup, Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate, and Puerto Rico Classic. He owns the school record for career tournament victories with 7. He enters the championship ranked No. 6 in the nation, trailing only Florida’s Sam Horsfield (3rd) and Auburn’s Michael Johnson (5th) as the top-ranked golfers in the field.
Freshman Davis Riley and senior Tom Lovelady, who check in at No. 33 and No. 57 in latest Golfweek/Sagarin Power Rankings, gives the Tide three golfers ranked among the top 60 in the nation. Riley ranks second on the team in stroke average (71.67) and average vs. par (+0.33). Meanwhile, Lovelady has been playing some of his best golf late this season, recording five top-20 finishes in his last six tournaments, including three top-five results.
Sophomore Jonathan Hardee, who placed 11th overall as last year’s SEC Championship on his way to All-Freshman honors, and junior Dru Love, who is from Sea Island, Ga., and will be playing on his home course, will round out the Alabama lineup.
Alabama has produced four individual SEC champions in its history. Bobby Wyatt was the most recent Crimson Tide golfer to win the SEC title, doing so in 2014 with an Alabama and SEC record 18-under par 192. Nicklaus Award winner Justin Thomas claimed medalist honors in 2012. Michael Thompson snapped a streak spanning six decades with his win in 2008. Bobby Hill was the first Alabama player to be crowned league champion, winning the SEC title in 1952.
Alabama will be paired with South Carolina and LSU in Friday's first round and will tee off at 7:20 a.m. CT (8:20 a.m. ET).