Freshmen Lead Tide To Golf Victory

Powered by a pair of Tuscaloosa freshmen who shot under par final rounds, The University of Alabama men's golf team sailed to its third consecutive Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate championship Tuesday at Birmingham's Old Overton Club. The Crimson Tide finished six shots ahead of second place Auburn.

Alabama finished 10-under par to best the field of 12 teams, six of them nationally ranked. The final team standings found Alabama first (278-271-281/830), Auburn (287-268-281/836), SMU (278-269-291/838), Baylor (285-277-277/839), UNLV (292-276-283/841), North Carolina (283-276-284/843), Georgia State (286-278-283/847), tied at 8th North Florida (285-282-288/855) and UAB (287-282-286/855), at 10th Memphis (289-281-288/858), NC-Wilmington (300-279-286/865), and Samford (302-294-292/888).

"It's a good feeling," said Alabama Coach Jay Seawell whose team also won the tournament in the fall of 2006 and 2007, making this Alabama's third straight JPNI victory. "It's a new team. A lot of new guys trying to learn how to win, and I thought they did a fantastic job today in their first chance to win. They battled and competed all day long and we were able eek it out."

Alabama,ranked No. 8 in the Golf World/NIKE Golf Coaches' poll and No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings, won the tournament playing four freshmen and a senior, All-Southeastern Conference golfer Matthew Swan.

"They're starting to get more and more comfortable," said Seawell of his young lineup. "They're not totally green anymore. Today was a new environment, but they're getting more and more comfortable with college golf and me and how we handle things and the everyday stuff we do. Each day we're going to get better. That's our goal. And if we do that, we'll be a fine team at the end of the year."

SMU's Kelly Kraft was the medalist, finishing 6-under par on the par 70 Old Overton Club course. (The course changed pars for the tournament as it's normally a par 71). Kraft shot 67-68-69/204 to win. Auburn's Glenn Northcutt (69-64-72/205) and UNLV's Eddie Olson (66-70-69/205) were second.

Four of Alabama's five golfers competing finished among the top 25 individuals. Bud Cauley finished T-9th at 2-under par (69-66-73/208). Hunter Hamrick (70-64-75/209) and Hunter Slatton (70-72-67/209) finished T-11th, Matthew Swan finished T-15th (69-69-72/210), and Phillip Weaver finished T-35th (72-75-69/216).

The JPNI win was the second JPNI team win for Swan who played in it and finished T-24th at 3-under par his sophomore year in the fall of 2006. This tournament is special for the Tide golf team not only because of the caliber of competition and because Alabama hosts it but because it is named in honor of former Tide golfer and current Champions Tour player Jerry Pate who has been in attendance at the tournament all three days and handed the Tide the trophy Tuesday afternoon.

Swan, who has played in three straight NCAA Championships at Alabama, is the veteran on this Tide team which lost four key players to graduation at the end of last season. For three years, Swan was always the youngest in Alabama's lineup. This season he's the oldest and likes what he sees in Alabama's youth.

"I think everybody stayed in there, stayed composed," said the Montgomery native. "I really liked how Weaver and Hunter Slatton played really well. They hadn't done that the first two (rounds), and they came back today and played well in the final round. I think that shows a lot about them and our team as well. I think that this win is a good win to get under our belt. It's such a young team."

The JPNI was the third of four fall tournaments Alabama will play. It finished 6th of 18 teams at the Carpet Capital Collegiate and 5th of 15 teams at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. Its final fall tournament, before picking back up the season in February, is the Isleworth-UCF Collegiate Invitational at Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windermere, Fla., on October 26-28.

"We're going against an elite field," said Seawell of the Isleworth tournament. "You're going up against an NCAA Championships' field on the NCAA Championships course. So we need to step it up. We need to show that we belong on that level. This is an opportunity to show that we belong in the high end of college golf. And so we've got about a week and a half. We've got a lot of things to correct. I'm going to give them a few days off and we'll get started back next week."

The JPNI win was the 13th team tournament championship Seawell has won at Alabama since 2004. His Alabama team won a school record six team tournament championships last season. This latest win comes two days before Seawell's 42nd birthday.

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