Let The Season Begin

Armed with a team of 11 golfers that includes six with United States Amateur Championship experience, The University of Alabama opens its 2006-07 men's golf season Friday. Alabama will compete Friday through Sunday at the 18th Annual Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic in Dalton, Georgia. Many of the nation's top teams and players will be in the tournament.

"You always get excited the first tournament of the year," said Alabama Men's Golf Coach Jay Seawell."Because of NCAA rules, we only had a week of practice beforehand, but we had a good week of work. But the guys have played great all summer and they played really well this week, so I'm excited to see how we play this weekend."

Seawell has led the Crimson Tide to back-to-back NCAA postseason appearances in 2005 and 2006 Bama enters this season at Number 15 in GolfWorld's Coaches' Preseason Poll.

The five golfers who will compete for Alabama at the Carpet Capital include Mark Harrell, Matthew Swan, Thomas Hagler, Gator Todd and newcomer Michael Thompson, a transfer from Tulane.

"I will say that Mark Harrell is focused like an All-American is focused," said Seawell of the golfers who are standing out among the standouts on this talent-packed team. "I think he's going to have a great year this year. I think his determination, his attention to detail so far on his own, has been what All-Americans do. I would be surprised if he doesn't have a great year this year."

The tournament features a field of 18 teams and will be held at The Farm, par 72 with a 7,010 yards layout, in Dalton, Georgia. In addition to Alabama, the field includes, from the Southeastern Conference, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt; from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Wake Forest; from the Big 12 Texas Tech and Texas; from the Colonial Athletic Association Georgia State; from the Atlantic Sun Conference, East Tennessee State; as well as independent, Augusta State.

Georgia State, coached by former Crimson Tide golfer Matt Clark, is the tournament's defending champion. Past tournament fields in this event have been a breeding ground for future professional golf stars. PGA golfers who have competed in past years include Alabama's Dicky Pride and Spike McRoy, Tiger Woods when he was a golfer at Stanford, Jim Furyk (Arizona), Justin Leonard (Texas), Dudley Hart (Florida), Stewart Cink (Georgia Tech), David Duval (Georgia Tech), and Ben Curtis (Kent State), among others. v "The first tournament of the year is a big tournament," said Seawell of the field Alabama faces this weekend. "It's got a lot of great teams there: Florida and Georgia and Clemson, Georgia Tech, Texas and many others. So we get a chance to show who we are early. I think it's important that we do come out and play very well early this year."

It's a challenging field for a season opener. Golfweek ranks, among its preseason Top 10, Georgia at No. 2, Clemson at No. 4, Georgia Tech at No. 8 and Wake Forest at No. 9. In the Coaches' poll, Georgia is No. 3, Clemson No. 4, Georgia Tech No. 5, Florida No. 6, Wake Forest No. 8, Alabama No. 15, East Tennessee No. 16, Duke No. 22 and Georgia State No. 25, which means half the field is ranked in the Top 25.

"We just start going at it the first tournament. We really don't have any, quote, unquote, cupcakes or tournaments where you're just trying to get your feet on the ground," said Seawell of the schedule which includes five fall and six spring tournaments.

"This is the time of the year where the guys are actually the most prepared because they've practiced all summer. The summer is where they do most of their work on their own, play in a lot of tournaments. So actually in the beginning of the fall, you want to play as many big tournaments as you can because your team is the most prepared."

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