Shoal Creek Golf Club in suburban Birmingham has been home to a number of great championship events in golf, including PGA Championships, but the most important tournament over the 6,470-yard, par-72 course for the Alabama women’s golf team begins today. The Crimson Tide of Coach Mic Potter is host for the 54-hole NCAA Golf Regional at Shoal Creek Thursday through Saturday.
Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the nation and is the No. 1 seed in the Shoal Creek Regional, which is the Crimson Tide’s 11th consecutive appearance in NCAA postseason competition. The top six finishers at the Shoal Creek Regional will advance to the 2016 NCAA Championships, which will be held at Eugene Country Club on May 20-25 in Eugene, Ore.
Alabama Coach Mic Potter, recently selected Southeastern Conference coach of the year, said, “The course is in great condition. The greens are very fair, yet challenging. The greens here are going to separate the field. They’re firm and they’re fast, but they aren’t too fast so everyone can get around here. But you’ve got to be really creative around the greens. You’ve got to play from the fairways so the ball will hold on the green.
“I think we’re pretty comfortable here. We’ve had some good scores out here so we know it can be done. We don’t play out here that much but there are a couple holes where you have to know your angles off the tee and the girls are pretty comfortable with that and what they want to hit from each tee.”
This is Potter’s 11th year as head coach, which is the number of consecutive years Bama has made the NCAA field. Alabama won the 2012 national championship.
Alabama has won two NCAA Regionals in the last five seasons. The Tide won the 2011 NCAA East Regional at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., and the 2013 NCAA East Regional at the Auburn University Club. In 2015, Alabama tied for fourth at the NCAA Raleigh Regional at the Lonnie Poole Golf Club in Raleigh, N.C.
Alabama is coming off this year’s Southeastern Conference championship, played at nearby Greystone Golf and Country Club.
Three Bama players return from last year’s regional lineup. Senior Emma Talley, who finished 7th, sophomore Lakareber Abe, who tied for 15th and senior Janie Jackson, who tied for 30th. They will be joined in this weekend’s lineup by freshman Cheyenne Knight and sophomore Nicole Morales.
Talley is ranked No. 10 in the country in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index released on April 25. Knight (14), Abe (16) and Jackson (23) are also in the Top 25.
Following Wednesday’s practice round, Talley said, ““It’s really nice, really pure. The course is in great shape. Greens are running really well and the course is set up great. Janie (Jackson) and I knew going into SECs that it would be our last go-around there and we had been pumping up the team for that. We know here that we just have to go out and play our best and have fun. I think this is probably the most solid team I’ve ever played on. We’re so competitive with each other and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful.”
Knight has the best scoring average for Bama this year at 72.12 with a low round of 67. Talley is at 72.32 (low 69), followed by Abe at 72.52 (67), Jackson (72.73 (68), and Morales 73.81 (59).
The Tide's opposition in the 16-team regional this year includes 12 teams currently ranked in the Top 50 of the April 26 Golfstat rankings, including four teams ranked in the top 20. No. 2 seed Northwestern (8th nationally), No. 3 Oklahoma State (9), No. 4 California (16) and No. 5 Iowa State (17) round out the top five seeds at Shoal Creek.
The remainder of the field includes 6. Florida State (22); 7. Tennessee (25); 8. Missouri (32); 9. Purdue (36); 10. Notre Dame (40); 11. Vanderbilt (41); 12. Clemson (47); 13. Michigan (50); 14. Middle Tennessee State; 15. New Mexico State; 16. Eastern Kentucky; 17. Oakland (Mich.); 18. Alabama State.
Alabama will tee off at 9:09 am CDT on Thursday (today) to begin first round play.