Alabama shot one under par Tuesday to win the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational by 10 shots and best a field of 15 teams. The three-day 54-hole tournament was held at Sawgrass Country Club, a par 72 layout. The win was Alabama's fourth this season. It opened the 2006-07 season with a school record three-straight tournament victories winning, in order, The Carpet Capital Intercollegiate, The Shoal Creek Intercollegiate and The Jerry Pate Intercollegiate. This fourth team tournament championship ties the four wins by Alabama's 1972 team, powered then by a freshman named Jerry Pate who went on to become a PGA star and now plays on the PGA's Champions Tour.
"I'm very proud, first, to win," said Alabama golf coach Jay Seawell who has had a history making season at Alabama, coaching the Crimson Tide it its first No. 1 national ranking in October, a spot it continues to hold in the golf coaches poll. "Anytime you win, you have to play great, especially when you play against a field like we did. And to do it today with the lead, shooting one under par, the low round of the day, that's awesome. We talked about it last night as a team, that we needed to play great to win because other teams were going to play good. So we did it, played great. That's what I'm most proud of. We came out with the lead and played great."
In the final team standings, Alabama finished the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational at 17 over par, shooting 303-291-287/881. The Tide produced the low round of the day, one under par. The second best round of the day belonged to South Carolina at three over par.
Vanderbilt and Coastal Carolina tied one another for second at 891, followed by a four-way tie for fourth at 899 among UAB, UCF, UCLA and Georgia State. North Florida, the tournament's host, finished eighth (900). Tennessee was ninth (909), Pepperdine 10th (910), Charlotte 11th (911), South Carolina 12th (913), Notre Dame and Augusta State tied at 13th (920), and LSU finished 15th at 921.
"I think they felt a little pressure about winning," said Seawell of what his team faces each week as the nation's top-ranked team. "You're always nervous. I think we have a lot still to prove. I think the question in college golf is, ‘Is Alabama for real in college golf?' You hear that in the circles, so I think maybe we have had the attitude that we need to prove that we do belong and that's the reason they've worked so hard. That was the part that was very satisfying. I do believe that today we did take the steps of convincing people that Alabama is a national contender."
Gator Todd led Alabama, finishing fourth at one over par for the tournament but shooting three under par, 69, in Tuesday's final round. Todd, a Florence native who is the son of former Tide and NFL quarterback Richard Todd, shot 75-73-69/217, finishing just three strokes back from the tournament's medalist, UCLA's Kevin Chappell who finished two under par, 72-73-69/214, to win.
Joining Todd in the top 10 was his teammate, Montgomery's Matthew Swan. Swan finished in a tie for sixth, shooting 75-75-71/221, going one under par in the final round. Alabama's Mark Harrell finished tied for 18th. He shot 75-76-73/224. Thomas Hagler finished tied at 29th, shooting 78-72-77/227, and Joseph Sykora shot 83-71-74/228 to finished tied at 32nd.
Alabama will have little time to celebrate its latest victory, returning home for two days then leaving again to play in the February 25-27 Puerto Rico Classic.
"We're honored to be in that same company as our 1972 team with those four victories," said Seawell. "We're going to leave on Friday and get ready to go against probably the best field in the country. The top five teams in the nation will be there plus other top teams. So we need to be excited about this win all the way home and then when we get home we need to go back to work tomorrow because we've got a lot of work to do to get ready for this next tournament."