Alabama finished second at the NCAA Central Regional Saturday to advance to play in the May 29-June 2 NCAA finals in Williamsburg, Va.
Alabama's Michael Thompson finished tied for fourth, climbing from 98th in the individual standings after he shot 83, an 11 over par round, on the opening day. The Tucson, Arizona, native shot five under par, 67, in the second round and finished the tournament off with a 70, which is two under par, on Saturday to cap his monumental climb that found him just five strokes out of winning it all.
"We're very excited," said Alabama head coach Jay Seawell. "This is what you work for all year long. You set the goals to compete for national championship. The only way to do that is to go through the regional qualifier. Because so much is on the line, it's tense. It's challenging. But I'm proud of the way our guys played through all that. We had a chance to win it but came up a little short, but the main thing is, we'll advance. We are excited to get back into the NCAA Championship."
Alabama, ranked No. 3, was the No. 1 seed going into the May 17-19 Central Regional held at the par 72 Rich Harvest Farms course in Sugar Grove, Ill. Tulsa won the regional at 31 over par, besting the field of 27 teams by shooting 305-380-310/895. The 10 teams who advanced from the regional into the team finals were Tulsa (895), Alabama (898), Louisville (899), Lamar (900), Tennessee (904), Oklahoma State (906), Texas Tech (907), Michigan State (915), Texas (918) and Minnesota (918) who won the last spot in a playoff with Texas A&M who also shot 918. A total field of 30 teams and six individuals will compete for the national team and individual titles in Williamsburg.
Seawell said he was particularly proud of the play of his All-Southeastern Conference golfer, Thompson. Thompson shot 83 in the opening round but was able to shake it off and came back in Friday's second round to shoot five under par, the round's low score, 67. On Saturday he shot two under par, 70, to help Alabama to its second place finish.
"Michael was huge," said Seawell of the golfer who transferred to Alabama this season after Tulane, where he was All-Conference USA, dropped its golf program. "He played fantastic after shooting that 83, he was able to come back and shoot that 67 then today a 70 under some very tough conditions. The conditions were very hard, a borderline unfair golf course, and to shoot 70 today was a big-time score."
Individually for Alabama, Thompson finished tied for fourth (83-67-70/221) at four over par, five shots out of the lead. Lamar's Dawie Van Der Walt and Wisconsin's Dan Woltman shared the individual championship at 215. Alabama's Matthew Swan finished tied for 21st (76-71-79/226) at 10 over par. Tied at 28th at 11 over par was Mark Harrell (77-76-74/227). Gator Todd finished tied at 45th (76-75-79/230). Joseph Sykora finished tied at 75th (80-74-81/235).
It is the second time Jay Seawell has advanced the Crimson Tide to the finals. His 2005 Alabama team finished tied for sixth at the NCAA East Regional to advance. It finished 28th overall in the NCAA finals which were held at Caves Valley Club in Owings Mills, Maryland that year.
It will be the 10th time in school history that Alabama's golfers have made it to the finals where its best finish came with a Jerry Pate-led team in 1975 when Alabama finished in a tie for third in the nation. It's best recent finish was the 1992 team's 11th place finish. PGA Tour player Dicky Pride and European PGA tour player Marten Olander, both of whom have collected wins on their respective PGA Tour events, were on that Alabama team.
Alabama's 2007 team, the fourth out of five Jay Seawell has coached at Alabama and advanced to postseason play, has set several program milestones this season. The first of those came within the first three events as Alabama won its first three tournaments it played, a school record for back-to-back-to-back victories. Those wins resulted in another school first, Alabama first No. 1 national golf ranking. The team made history on September 28 when the golf coaches' poll made it collegiate golf's top team, a spot it held in the coaches poll until February 21. It finished No. 3 in the final coaches' poll which was released earlier this week.
The team won a fourth tournament to open the spring season, a win that tied the 1972 team's school record four season victories. Pate was a freshman on that squad. And this year's team set two more records. En route to winning the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate in October, it set the school's 54-hole record score, 819, and Joseph Sykora, en route to his individual tournament championship at the JPNI, set the individual school 54-hole record when he shot 199.