In most sports, Alabama measures itself against the nation’s best, not against another team. (Ironically, the Crimson Tide is the standard by which others judge themselves in many sports.) By Bama standards, this was not a great year for the men’s golf team, which was unable to challenge for its third national championship.
While the Alabama team of Coach Jay Seawell was eliminated after three rounds at the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship in Sugar Grove, Ill., Bama’s Jonathan Hardee qualified individually and finished tied for 19th with a four-day total of even par 288 (69-75-67-77). The Crimson Tide junior was one of only 22 golfers in the 156-man field to finish the event at even par or better.
During Monday’s fourth round on the par 72, 7,300-yard Rich Harvest Farms course, the golfers battled high winds with swirling gusts nearing 30 miles per hour. As a result, only four of the 84 golfers who advanced to the championships’ final round shot below par. Hardee collected three birdies on the day to go along with six bogeys and a double bogey on his way to a 5-over par 77.
“It was a tough day out there today,” Hardee said. “The beginning of the round was honestly just brutal. The first six or seven holes were really tough. Overall, it was a good tournament for me, but a little disappointing way to finish. I felt I played better than what my score was. I just needed another bounce here or there and a couple of close putts to drop and maybe it would have been a little different.”
Hardee began the day with back-to-back pars before a bogey on the 197-yard par 3 third hole snapped his streak of 23 consecutive bogey-free holes. However, after recording another bogey on the fifth hole, Hardee’s chip in from the bunker was the highlight of his round, bringing him to a score of 1-over par for the day.
Hardee would go on to record three bogeys and a double in four of his first six holes on the back nine. The Greer, S.C., native had several makeable birdie and par putts, but just was not able to get them to fall. He ended his round on a high note, collecting a birdie on the par 5 18th hole.
Despite the struggles on Monday, Hardee’s 72-hole score of 288 ranks sixth-best in program history, while his even par total is fourth-best in a 72-hole event.
Hardee’s playing partner, Braden Thornberry of Ole Miss, went on to claim medalist honors with an 11-under par 277, while his other playing partner, Mason Overstreet of Arkansas, finished second at 7-under par 281.
Additionally, the Alabama men’s golf team had a pair of representatives on the Division I PING All-Southeast Region Team, the Golf Coaches Association of America announced. Junior Lee Hodges and sophomore Davis Riley each earned a spot on the team, marking the seventh consecutive year the Crimson Tide has had multiple representatives on the team.
Riley earns the recognition for the second straight year after garnering all-region honors in 2016, while Hodges claims his first such accolade. Together, the duo led the Crimson Tide throughout the year. The tandem ranked among the top two golfers on the team in stroke average, average vs. par and top-20 finishes entering NCAA National Championships play.
Of the 27 players on this year's Southeast All-Region squad, 20 of them hail from the Southeastern Conference.