The Alabama men’s golf team is accustomed to playing in the NCAA Championship Tournament and the Crimson Tide of Coach Jay Seawell will be teeing off in that tournament again this year beginning Friday. Bama will make its 19th appearance at Nationals and ninth showing in the last 11 years, including six appearances in the last seven years.
Unlike many of those previous appearances, Alabama would not be ranked among the favorites over the 7,300-yard, par-72 Rich Harvest Farms course in Oak Grove, Ill. (Incidentally, if the location sounds familiar, it’s where the women’s championship was played over the last week and where weather conditions were miserable.)
The Tide received the No. 23 overall seed and will be paired with No. 22 seed North Carolina and No. 24 seed Lipscomb throughout the first two rounds of this year’s event. The three teams will tee off at 7:40 a.m. CDT on Friday off Hole No. 10 and 1 p.m. CT on Saturday off Hole No. 1. Sunday’s tee time will be determined according to position following the first two rounds.
The Tide is coming off one of the best stretches in modern collegiate golf. Alabama won back-to-back national titles in 2013 and 2014, becoming one of three teams to earn consecutive championships since 1984 (Houston in 1984 and 1985, Augusta State in 2010 and 2011). The Tide also finished runner-up to Jordan Spieth and Texas in 2012, falling on the last hole of match play by one shot.
There will be three rounds of stroke play for the 30-team field with a cut to 15 teams after 54 holes. Those 15 teams will be whittled down to eight teams after a fourth round of stroke play. The eight teams will then begin three rounds of match play for the national title (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5), which is slated to be held on May 30-31.
Alabama reached this year’s nationals on the strength of not only its best round of the regional, but the 282 was also lowest team score in the entire field in the last round of play. Three Tide golfers shot below par in the final round, including Lee Hodges (3-under 68), Josh Sedeno (2-under 69) and Davis Riley (1-under 70).
After a slow start to the 2016-17 season, Alabama is playing some of its best golf at the right time of year. Over the last six tournaments this spring, the Crimson Tide has finished outside the top five only once. That occasion came when it placed sixth at the SEC Championships. However, Alabama advanced to match play with the result and reached the semifinals before falling to No. 3 seed and 15th-ranked Texas A&M.
After averaging a team total of 876.0 over the first four stroke play tournaments of the year, the Tide has lowered that more than 21 strokes in the six tournaments since. Over the stretch, Alabama’s team average has dropped to 854.7 per tournament.
In addition to Hodges, Sedeno, and Riley, Alabama’s NCAA lineup includes Jonathan Hardee and Steven Setterstrom.