Tide Golf Team Defends Title

ROCKY FACE, GA. – He was the lone man among the five who was new to the mix. Four of the five Alabama golfers who led Alabama to the 2006 Carpet Capital Collegiate team championship last fall were back in Rocky Face, Ga., last weekend to defend the title. (The fifth player team had graduated.) Alabama inserted Matt Hughes, an August participant in the U.S. Amateur, into the lineup. Good move.

It was the Alabama junior's play in Sunday's final round, his 5-under par round, that helped the Crimson Tide successfully defend its championship. Alabama won the Carpet Capital Collegiate on the first hole of a playoff against the University of South Carolina.

"You play the best four out of five scores on the hole, and we played it 2-under, and South Carolina played it 1-under," said Alabama men's golf coach Jay Seawell who collected his fifth Tide team championship in its last 15 tournaments with the win. "Gator (Todd) made a seven or eight footer for birdie to win the playoff."

It was Alabama's second tournament of the 2007-08 season. In the opener September 6, it finished second in Japan's TOPY Cup, falling to a Japanese university but finishing ahead of the other three U.S. teams in the 10-team international field, including defending national champions and No. 1 ranked Stanford. At the Carpet Capital, Alabama shot 292-295-282/869, shooting 6-under on Sunday and finishing 5-over par for the tournament to win. South Carolina was second (869) after the playoff, followed by Georgia Tech (870), Auburn (875), Duke (880), Georgia (882), Wake Forest and Tennessee (883), Chattanooga and Texas Tech (886), East Tennessee State (888), Florida (893), Clemson (897), Augusta State and TCU (898), Georgia State (900), Vanderbilt (901) and N.C. State (902).

Thirteen of the 18 teams among the field were nationally ranked. The tournament was played at The Farm, a par 72 layout. Play was scheduled to begin on Friday, but five inches of rain in the Dalton, Ga., area postponed the start to Saturday. Teams played two rounds on Saturday and the final round on Sunday.

Alabama won four regular season tournament championships in 2006-07. The Carpet Capital was its first chance to defend one of those titles.

"It was great how we won it today," said Seawell. "It was the first time we've had a come-from-behind victory. We've had the lead in all our other victories. We played to win today. I'm proud of how we played. We played fearless in trying to find a way to win. And we did."

U.S. Amateur finalist Michael Thompson finished second at 5-under par in the final individual standings. The Alabama senior shot 72-70-69/211, carding 3-under on Sunday. Georgia Tech's Chesson Hadley finished 3-shots ahead of Thompson to win it at 8-under, 65-69-74/208.

Hughes, who was playing in his hometown, finished T-10th. He shot 5-under on Sunday and finished even for the 54-holes, shooting 74-75-67/216. It was his best collegiate career finish.

"He birdied eight of his last 10 holes," said Seawell. "I knew Matt could play. We didn't shuffle our lineup just to do anything other than give someone who deserves an opportunity to play, and he made the most of it. He birdied eight of his last 10, and we don't win the golf tournament this week if Matt Hughes wasn't in the lineup. He birdied a playoff hole, too, so technically, he actually birdied nine of his last 11 holes and he eagled a hole in the second round on Saturday."

In a tip to the depth Alabama has this season, the playing five, which will vary throughout the season, did not include for this event Joseph Sykora who opened the season by winning the TOPY Cup in Japan.

The other three Tide golfers, who, along with Thompson, were among the five who won the Carpet Capital in 2006 as well, included Mark Harrell who finished T-35th after shooting even in the final round (75-75-72/222), Matthew Swan who finished T-40th (71-75-77/223), and Todd who was the hero with the birdie in the playoff and finished T-70th (80-77-74/231).

The Tide will have little time to celebrate its latest win. It travels this weekend to West Lafayette, Ind., to compete in the Golfweek PING Preview on September 22 and 23.

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