Top-Ranked Bama Golf Team In Big Tourney
Alabama's 2007 NCAA tournament five who played Alabama to a sixth place NCAA team finish last year will represent Alabama at this tournament. It's only the second time this five has re-grouped this season for a Crimson Tide golf team that is talent deep. Michael Thompson, Mark Harrell, Joseph Sykora, Matthew Swan and Gator Todd will attempt to win Alabama's sixth team tournament championship of the season and what would be its fourth straight title. That quintet played together for the first time this season at the February 29-March 2 Puerto Rico Classic and left that country with the tournament's team trophy and a 10-under par finish as well as the individual championship trophy compliments of junior Matthew Swan's 12-under par finish.
Three of the five men competing for Alabama at the U.S. Collegiate Championships have won individual collegiate championships this season. Sykora opened the season with a victory at the U.S.A. vs. Japan Topy Cup. Harrell won the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate and Swan won in Puerto Rico.
"We haven't played with the same lineup twice all year long," said Alabama head coach Jay Seawell whose team set a school single season record when it won its fifth tournament championship on March 16 at the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational. "We picked this lineup based on career accomplishments plus they have all played this course. I just felt like we needed to play the same lineup, too, so I wanted to try this."
Last season Alabama finished 8th of the 15 teams at the U.S. Collegiate Championships at 37-over par, its highest score of the season, a season in which it also spent several months at No. 1 and won four team tournament championships en route to its sixth place NCAA finish.
"We had a bad first round," said Seawell. "We played better in the last 36 holes but this was a case that showed us that when you play in a talented field like this tournament has, you can't have any sort of mental lapse. If you do, it's awfully hard to catch anybody."
This is the third year for this tournament which is hosted by Georgia Tech and is held at The Golf Club of Georgia's Lakeside Course and is nicknamed "the Masters of collegiate golf" because of the strength of the 15 teams in the field. The tournament features a PGA-like experience for the golfers who will have caddies for each of the three rounds. Long pants are required for the participants and galleries are able to walk in the fairways behind the players, similar to the Walker Cup. Clemson won the championship in 2006 and Georgia in 2007.
The 2008 field includes Alabama, Georgia, Stanford, Southern Cal, UCLA, Oklahoma State, Charlotte, Georgia Tech, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, Texas, Texas A&M, Georgia State, East Tennessee State and BYU. Their rankings, with the Golf World/Nike Coaches' poll ranking first and Golfweek/Sagarin ranking listed second are: No. 1/No. 1 Alabama, No. 2/No. 2 Georgia, No. 3/No. 3 Charlotte, No. 4/No. 5 Oklahoma State, No. 5/No. 4 UCLA, No. 6/No. 6 Southern Cal, No. 7/No. 7 Stanford, No. 8/No. 10 Georgia Tech, No. 12/No. 11 Florida State and East Tennessee State which is ranked No. 24 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings (but unranked in the Coaches' poll).
Alabama goes into the tournament as the nation's No. 1 ranked college golf team, ranked in that top spot by both the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and the Golf World/Nike Coaches' rankings.
"It always feels good to be ranked No. 1," said Seawell who coached Alabama to its first No. 1 ranking in school history in September of 2006. "Our goal is always to be the best. It feels good but we have a long way to go. We want to know what it feels like to still have that No. 1 ranking in June when the season ends."
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