Tide Men's Golf Team Finishes 13th

WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. – The most successful season in Alabama golf ended Saturday. The 2007-08 Crimson Tide team played its final round of a year that included it finishing as the nation's top-ranked team for the first time in school history (the final Golf World/Nike Coaches' poll), winning a record six team championships and collecting only its second ever Southeastern Conference championship.

Alabama's senior-laden team wrapped up play at the 2008 NCAA Men's Golf Championships, making the final cut of 15 teams from the original field of 30 after 54 holes. Alabama finished 13th. It marked the last official collegiate round of golf for All-American Michael Thompson and All-SEC golfer Mark Harrell and two-time tournament champion Joseph Sykora. Alabama will also lose 2007 All-SEC golfer Gator Todd who contributed to the program's success.

"It's a class that put Alabama golf on the map," said Alabama head coach Jay Seawell following Saturday's round at the Kampen Course at the Birck Boilermake Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind. "We're now sitting here being disappointed at being at the NCAA Championships on the final round (with this finish) when we used to not go to them. I think that's what they did. They made Alabama Golf something people know about. Their character and what they stand for and all the things like that will be hopefully what we'll build our program around for years and years to come."

Alabama shot 309-297-297-315/1218 to finish 66-over par in the 72-hole tournament. None of the 15 teams broke 300 in the final round. UCLA won the championship, finishing the tournament at 42-over par to win by a shot over Stanford. UCLA shot 297-293-298-306/1194. Stanford finished second (1195), followed by Southern California (1196), Oklahoma State (1200), Clemson (1201), Kent State (1204), Washington (1208), Charlotte and Georgia (1210), Louisville (1213), Florida (1214), Texas A&M (1216), Alabama (1218), San Diego State (1222) and Middle Tennessee State (1225).

"It was just another brutal day today," said Seawell whose team, along with the 30 others originally gathered here this week, has been battling wind, the rough, and tough course conditions all week. "The wind was in another direction and it was hard, and we didn't play very well. We were a little disgusted. You'd like to finish up on a better note. But these guys, especially these three seniors have done something for Alabama golf that we have a chance to build on, and I think as soon as the realization that there's not much that we could do out there, when the realized they weren't going to finish 10th or 8th in this wind. And I think when they saw that they couldn't, I think their spirit was gone and we didn't finish very well. But, you know what? The ride has been fantastic: an SEC Championship. The first one in 29 years, so I am very proud of them and what they've done for our University of Alabama. There will always be a special place in my heart for them."

UCLA's Kevin Chappell was the NCAA medalist, winning at 2-under and by three shots over Indiana individual qualifier Jorge Campillo.

Thompson, who finished T-4th in 2007 at nationals, finished T-29th in 2008. He shot 16-over par (76-74-75-79/304). Swan and Harrell finished T-38th at 18-over. Swan carded 75-79-74-78/306. Harrell shot 79-73-75-79/306). Sykora finished T-64th at 25-over (79-82-73-79/313). And Hughes finished 80th at 37-over (90-71-82-82/329).

Alabama started Saturday on the No. 10 tee and turned at 13-over par. At the midway point of the round, Alabama was T-8th with Thompson and Swan turning at 2-over par, Harrell turning at 4-over par, Sykora at 5-over and Hughes at 7-over after nine holes. By round's end, Swan came in with Alabama's best round, 6-over, 78. Three golfers came in at 7-over par, 79, including Thompson, Harrell and Sykora. And Hughes shot 10-over par, 82.

"It was rough," said Swan, a Montgomery native who, like Hughes, is a junior this season and will return for his final season next year. "It definitely wasn't what we wanted. But it was just real rough. The wind was blowing so hard and it just kind of beat you up all day, the course did. There was one hole that I could hardly even get to the fairway. It was fun but it kind of wasn't fun because the course was set up so hard. It was playing so hard with the wind. I think we're all kind of glad to get out of here. We're ready to go home."

Swan produced the round's low score for Alabama and also the highlight of the round when he made eagle on No. 15, a par 4. Swan made eagle in a practice round on No. 18 earlier in the week as well.

"I just holed out," said Swan of the eagle. "It was actually the second time this week. I holed out in the practice round as well. So I holed that one out and on one of the par three's I hit it to about half a foot. And then I had another ball that would have gone in but the flag stick wasn't in straight and it bounced out to about an inch."

For Thompson it meant an end to a quick career at Alabama. He transferred into the Alabama program his junior season in 2006-07 after Tulane, where he was an All-Conference USA golfer as a freshman and a sophomore, dropped men's golf. All-SEC last season, he led Alabama and won the SEC Championship in April, becoming Alabama's first league medalist in 50 years. The league's coaches gave him their nod as the 2008 SEC Golfer of the Year, making him only the second Tide golfer ever to win that honor, joining PGA player Steve Lowery with that accolade. He was one of three finalists for the 2008 Ben Hogan Award that goes to the top golfer from all levels of collegiate golf, and he played in the 2008 Masters as an amateur. He will represent the United States on the Palmer Cup team in June right after he plays in the U..S. Open, and the Tucson, Arizona native was a finalist at the 2007 U.S. Amateur.

"It is when I think about it. When I was out there it wasn't," said Thompson when asked following his final collegiate round if it was an emotional experience. "I actually got really lucky today. I got paired with Derek Fathauer (of Louisville) who I'd played in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Am. And a really good friend of mine, one of my teammates from Tulane plays for Louisville, so I know him real well. I was having a great time, just talking, chatting it up. Asking each other what we're going to do in the next year because we've both graduated. I guess that was good for me. It made me relax a little bit. But it really didn't help me play any better because the course was playing so ridiculously hard. It's just a tough day."

Though the team was disappointed with their final finish, Swan said this was a group that will always stand out and a season that will stand out.

"We really had an awesome time. We had such a close team. All of us got along," said Swan. "We always had a good time, every tournament. And winning was awesome. We won six times. We'll always remember that but we'll remember the fun we had together, all the guys. With it being the senior year for so many of the guys, knowing that going in, it was a real good year."

Thompson will return home to Tucson early next week then plans to drive to San Diego on Saturday for his play in the 2008 U.S. Open. He likens the course he played in this weekend to a U.S. Open level challenge.

"This course is harder than any U.S. Open I've ever seen," said Thompson. "My dad just told me that Lanny Wadkins' son is playing in this tournament and Lanny said that he, in all of his years on the professional tour, he's never seen a golf course like this. Coming from a veteran like him who has played all of the hardest golf courses in the world, to me, the sooner I can forget about this golf course, the better. It's just one of those courses where you play well you still get bad breaks and still shoot a lot and that's exactly what happened to me. Even without the wind, you have to hit really good golf shots. And the way they have the rough set up this week it's almost borderline unfair, especially with the wind. The wind really makes it extremely tough. You saw when it wasn't windy the first couple of days, it was kind of scorable but still very hard. I don't know. For a national championship it seems a little bit too hard. But everybody's got to play the same course. Unfortunately, we didn't play too well."

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