Tide Wins Again

Early Tuesday the latest rankings of Golf World were announced and Alabama was the magazine's number one men's college golf team in America. Later Tuesday Bama justified that ranking with an impressive wire-to-wire victory in the prestigious Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate tournament at Old Overton in Birmingham. Tide junior Joseph Sykora took the individual championship.

The victory over an elite field Tuesday was the third in three tournaments this year for the Alabama men's golf team of Coach Jay Seawell.

Only one Alabama team has won three team championships in one season since golf was established as a varsity sport in 1952. The 1972 Tide team won four championships.

Bama junior Joseph Sykora of Daphne was the medalist, setting the school's individual tournament record and besting the field of 60 golfers with his 14-under-par finish. Sykora shot 67-67-65/199. He bettered Georgia State's Mark Haastrip (63-71-67/201) and Texas Tech's Will Griffen (68-62-71/201) by two strokes.

Griffen tied the course competitive record in the second round Monday afternoon with his 62. Alabama's previous 54-hole record was 200, held by Nick Rousey en route to his 2002 victory at the University of Tennessee's Tournament of Champions.

Jay Seawell's University of Alabama golf team's latest victory took 20 years in the making. Tuesday afternoon here in Birmingham, Alabama won its own Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate, posting what is believed to be a school record 33-under-par finish to best the field of 12 teams, five of those ranked in the coaches' poll top 25 and seven in the Golfweek/Sagarin Top 50.

The Tide shot 270-272-277/819 on the par 71 course at Old Overton Club. Alabama fell one stroke short of tying the JPNI team record, set by Clemson at 818 in 2003. It is the first time in two decades (1986) of hosting this tournament, which annually brings together many of college golf's top teams, that Alabama has claimed the tournament's championship.

This is a win Seawell says he has wanted since he first became Alabama's golf coach five years ago.

"Mr. (Jerry) Pate is such a great ambassador for college golf and really, for the University of Alabama," said Seawell of the man the tournament is named for and who is on hand each year at event that raises money for Alabama Golf Charities. "He is the face of our program, the best player who has ever played golf for Alabama. For us to win his tournament means a great deal to me, to all of us."

Pate was a golfer at Alabama for four years, 1972-75, and won the U.S. Amateur following his junior season. He went on to a successful PGA career and is currently playing on the PGA's Champions Tour. He is a former United States Open champion.

Seawell said, "We played okay today. I wouldn't say we played well today, but I am very pleased, There's a lot of pressure to win this because it is your tournament. We held the lead again overnight, and that's pressure, too. To do all that and have all that pressure on you and play the way we did, I'm really proud of them. I do believe that our team is gaining more and more confidence each week, and they now believe they can go out there and compete with the best teams in college golf. That's something I'm really proud to see in them. They believe in themselves and in each other, and that makes me proud as their coach."

Sykora is Alabama's first individual tournament champion since Lars Brovold won the University of North Carolina's Franklin Street Partners Invitational in 2004 with a minus 13 score.

Sykora celebrated his first career collegiate victory. He said, "I'm glad I was able to keep my focus and help the team out. The team did great. We've never won this tournament, and this is awesome."

Sykora's victory is even sweeter because of how he came to be among the Tide's playing five here. Because this 2006-07 version of the Tide is so deep---six of its 11 players have played in the United States Amateur at least once and one of those has competed in it three times---Seawell held a qualifier for two of the spots for this tournament. Sykora, who was the only one of the four here who had not competed in the first two events this fall, won one of the spots.

"I would have never guessed I'd win individually. I had to qualify last week. I had to come from behind, so this gives me a real boost. I was down on myself for a while," said Sykora. "I appreciate all the people who came out here to support us, too. Coach (Mal) Moore was out here yesterday with a couple of our assistant athletic directors, my academic advisor, my parents, a lot of others. That was cool. We had a lot of support out here and I think that really helped us play well."

The final teams standings found Alabama first (819) at 33 under par, followed by Texas Tech (826), Texas (828), Brigham Young (830), Georgia State (833), East Tennessee State (834), Auburn (839), UAB (841), LSU (843), Arizona (847), Tulsa (850), and Purdue (854)

In the GCAA/Bridgestone Coaches Poll, which will change on October 14, Alabama is No. 7, BYU No. 10, Georgia State No. 19, ETSU No. 20, and Arizona No. 25. In the Golfweek rankings just released, Alabama is No. 1, Georgia State No. 9, ETSU No. 13, Tulsa No. 34, Auburn No. 38 and Texas Tech No. 41.

Alabama will have little time to celebrate Tuesday's win. The Tide plays again this weekend at the October 14-15 Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate hosted by ETSU at the Ridges in Johnson City, Tenn.


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