Tide Golf Struggles, But Makes NCAA Field

COLUMBUS, OHIO – For the second year in a row and the third time in the six seasons Jay Seawell has been its head coach, the University of Alabama men's golf team has advanced to the NCAA Championships finals' field.

Alabama,the third overall seed and the one seed in the region, finished sixth at the NCAA Central Regional Saturday. Ohio State hosted the regional at its par 71 Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio. It was one of three regionals held nationally, each with a field of 27 teams. The top 10 teams from each of the three regionals advanced to the field of 30 teams at the NCAA Championships which will be hosted by Purdue at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Club in West Lafayette, Ind., May 28-31.

Alabama has played that course once already this season, competing there at the September 22-23 Golfweek/Ping Preview where it finished fourth.

It's the second year in a row Alabama advanced to the final field of 30. Alabama finished sixth at nationals in 2007. Seawell advanced Alabama to the finals in 2005 as well. The team finished 28th in 2005. This will be the 11th time Alabama has made it to the championships since its first finals appearance in 1973. With regional and finals appearances combined, Alabama making the postseason in 2008 marked the 17th time in school history, since 1973.

No. 1 ranked Alabama played what Seawell describes as its first disappointing all-around round on Saturday. The Tide shot 25-over par in the third round to finish the regional at 44-over par. It shot 292-295-309/896 for the tournament. The 309 was its highest round this season.

"First of all the course played hard," said Seawell who guided Alabama to the 2008 Southeastern Conference Championship in late April. "I told our guys that today was really the first time that we didn't play well. As a team, it was the first time we've had that where every one of them did not play well. I guess we just got on the wrong side of the course or something. But when it was over, I told them that you can't win a national championship unless you play for it, and what matters most is that even with how we played today, we still made the cut. The dream is still alive."

The Central Regional posted the highest scores in any of the regionals and was the only one of the three where no team emerged with an under-par finish. Wake Forest won the Central Regional at 27-over par finish (290-287-302/879), a sharp contrast to the East Regional in Chattanooga where 11 of the 27 teams finished the tournament under par, led by winner Georgia who won it at 41-under par.

The 10 teams that advanced from the Central Regional included, in scoring order, Wake Forest (879), Oklahoma State (889), Illinois (891), Florida and Louisville (894), Alabama (896), Texas A&M (897), Kent State and Purdue (898) and Indiana (901). Tennessee was the first team under the cut line at 902, finishing 11th.

"The regional is different because you're playing to make it in and I think that can cause some struggles because it's all you're out there thinking about. But our guys are fired up. They'll get the chance to play for a national championship, and they've worked hard all year to get this opportunity."

Oklahoma State's Kevin Tway, son of PGA Tour golfer Bob Tway, was the medalist. He finished 1-over par, shooting 70-69-75/214. Alabama's best finish was by two golfers, Matthew Swan and Mark Harrell who both finished in a tie for 33rd at 12-over par. Swan shot 71-76-78/225 and Harrell shot 70-74-81/225. Matt Hughes was next for Alabama a shot back at 13-over. He shot 73-76-77/226 to finish T-41st. Joseph Sykora finished T-52nd at 14-over, shooting 79-72-76/227. And Michael Thompson finished T-65th at 16-over par, shooting 78-73-78/229. It marked the first time this season Thompson, the SEC Golfer of the Year and SEC Champion, has finished out of the top 10.

Seawell said he will give his golfers a couple of days off to recover from their fast-pace last couple of weeks that have included travelling to, playing in and winning the Southeastern Conference Championship followed by final exams and for some, including Thompson and Sykora, graduation one week ago today (Saturday). The team will reconvene in a couple of days and then prepare for the team championships. Alabama will leave on Sunday and play practice rounds at Purdue on Monday and Tuesday, May 26 and 27, then will play the first round on Wednesday, May 28.

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