Tide Golf Regains First Place Ranking

The University of Alabama golf team will try to make it three in a row this weekend when the Crimson Tide, winner of both of its spring tournaments, will go for a third straight title at the March 14-16 E-Z-Go Schenkel Invitational. The tournament is in its 29th year. It's a march that has propelled the Crimson Tide to the No. 1 ranking in the Golf World Nike Coaches Poll released on Wednesday.

Alabama moved from No. 3 to No. 1 in the Coaches' poll, its second time the Tide has been ranked the nation's best as it was ranked No. 1 for several weeks in the fall of 2006 through February of 2007. Alabama overtook Georgia for the top spot this week as the Bulldogs move to second. The top 10 also includes, in order, Charlotte, Oklahoma State, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Florida. Auburn is No. 11.

The Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational will be held Friday, March 14 through Sunday, March 16 at Forest heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga., a par 72 layout. The field includes Alabama, UAB, Auburn, Augusta State, Boston College, Florida, Georgia Southern, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Carolina State, North Florida, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

"There are some very good teams there, especially from our conference with Florida and Auburn and Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and LSU," said Alabama men's golf coach Jay Seawell. "So you get a chance to see a little bit more of the SEC this week as we get closer to the SEC Championships, so that will be good."

Among the teams competing who are ranked in the Top 25 are Alabama, which is ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and No. 1 in the Golf World Nike Coaches' poll, No. 11/No. 11 Auburn, No. 12/No. 10 Florida, No. 15/No. 15 Michigan State, No. 23/No. 23 North Carolina, No. 20/No. 16 South Carolina and No. 8/No. 9 Tennessee.

"It's a good tournament," said Seawell. "It's an older tournament. A fun part of it is that a lot of our (golf) alumni have played in this. We played in it in the 1970's so it's one that our alumni can identify with also. It's a unique tournament. The Phi Mu's (a sorority) are a sponsor, so there are sororities are out there and the school has been really involved with it for 30 years. It's nice to be a part of a tournament that has such a good tradition."

Competing for Alabama, after a qualifier was held for two spots earlier this week, will be Michael Thompson, Mark Harrell, Matthew Swan, Stewart Whitt and Matt Hughes. It is the seventh different lineup Alabama will have used this season in its seven stroke play tournaments. Alabama also played in the Collegiate Match Play championships in the fall with a different mix.

"We've played seven tournaments, and we have not played the same lineup. We have not played the same lineup twice yet and we've won four tournaments with four different lineups. Now we're taking our eighth different lineup this week which is good. I think it's a credit to the players that the guys who haven't been playing are continuing to work hard and also our depth. But we're also at a time where we need to start getting a lineup. So after the Schenkel, we'll take some time and it will become more of a pick system instead of a qualifying system just so we can get a little bit more consistency in our lineups," said Seawell whose players get five automatic exemptions with individual wins and one exemption for each top 10 individual finish and holds qualifiers for any remaining open spots. "The guys are playing well, so I'm proud of them.. And it's remarkable the talent we are leaving behind because of how well they are all playing. That's a great tribute to our depth but also to our players and how hard they are working."

Alabama has played in six stroke play tournaments this season and has won four of those, including both of its spring tournaments played so far, the February 17-19 John Hayt Intercollegiate at Sawgrass Country Club and the February 29-March 2 Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Mar Beach, Puerto Rico. In the fall it won the Carpet Capital Collegiate in September and its own Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate in October. All four of the tournaments featured fields packed with Top 25 ranked teams. Alabama has produced the individual champion in three tournaments this season, Joseph Sykora (-14) at the Topy Cup in Japan, Mark Harrell (-15) at the Jerry Pate, and its latest victor, Matthew Swan (-12) in Puerto Rico.

One more team win this season will set the school record for most team tournament championships. One more individual win will tie the 1974 team for individual titles. Jerry Pate won two championships that year and Alan Pate and Tony Hollifield both also had wins.

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