Tide NCAA-Bound

KINGSTON SPRINGS, TENN. – It's been nine years since an Alabama men's golf team was in the NCAA team finals for the national title. But in less than two weeks, the Crimson Tide will be back in the elite hunt. "You can't win a national championship unless you're playing for it," said an elated Jay Seawell on Saturday night after his Alabama team shot four-under-par Saturday to advance from the NCAA East Regional to the May 31 – June 3 team finals at Caves Valley Club in Owings Mill, Md.

Alabama was one of 10 teams which advanced from the East, finishing the tournament at five under par and in a tie for sixth with fourth-ranked Georgia Tech. Alabama shot four under par in Saturday's final round, scoring 280. In college golf, only four of the five scores are counted toward the team round scores, and Alabama's "throw out" score was a 73 on the par 71 Golf Club of Tennessee course.

Senior Clint Provost, who was playing in his third NCAA regional for the Tide, had the low round Saturday for Alabama, overcoming a 78 he shot in Friday's second round by carding a four-under-par 67 in the final round. Joseph Sykora shot 70, Mark Harrell 71, Thomas Hagler 72 and Gator Todd 73. Four out of the five had at least one round where they shot two under or better in the regional.

"It was an exciting day," said Alabama coach Jay Seawell who has advanced Alabama to the NCAA team finals for the first time since 1996. "We played great. When you're playing in a regional, there's a lot of pressure out there, probably more than any of these guys have ever experienced before. There were a lot of good teams out there on the course trying to get through (to the team finals).

"But we played a great back nine today. Clint shot 31 on the back nine and Mark shot 32, something we really needed. It was a total team effort. All five guys contributed. Today we threw out a 73, and that was exactly what we needed to do because that's your high score for the day, you are looking at a great team effort. I‘m proud of everybody."

The 10 teams advancing from the East, in order of finish Saturday, are Wake Forest (271-283-281/835) who finished seven under par for the tournament, Tennessee (837), Georgia (843), Florida and Georgia State (845), Alabama (280-287-280/847) and Georgia Tech (847), Coastal Carolina and Duke (849) and Georgia Southern (850). All ten of those teams finished under par. They'll join the 10 teams from the Central Regional and 10 from the West Regional to converge into a finals field of 30 teams and six individuals.

Missing the cut in the East was Clemson, the 2003 national champion. Clemson finished 11th at even par (285-287-280/852). Virginia was 12th (853), followed by East Tennessee State (855), North Carolina (860), Louisville (866), Central Florida (869), Charlotte (872), Towson and Indiana (875), Penn State (855), Maryland (888), North Carolina Wilmington (896), Vanderbilt (898), Army (904), Rutgers (906), Rhode Island (928) and Boston College (932).

"This has been a long time coming," said Seawell of Alabama's play. The Tide has advanced to postseason play 14 times, playing in the team finals nine times now. "This has been a big day. I'm proud of all of our golfers, and I'm particularly proud of our senior, Clint Provost. Clint had a bad day yesterday, and he could have let that affect him when he went back out there this morning. Instead, he came back today and never looked back, and now he's going to carry us to Baltimore."

Coastal Carolina's Dustin Johnson was the regional's medalist, finishing 15 under par for the weekend. He shot seven under in the final round, a 64, and turned in a tournament scorecard of 65-69-64/198. He finished a stroke ahead of East Tennessee State's Rhys Davis (66-65-68/199) who did not advance with his team but will be one of the two individuals who will advance because of his finish.

A freshman, Harrell, produced Alabama's best tournament finish. Harrell finished T-21st (68-72-71/211) at two under. Sykora finished T-25th (69-73-70/212) with his teammate Todd (71-68-73/212), Provost T-57th (72-78-67/217) and Hagler finished T-82nd (76-74-72/222) for the Tide.


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