Men’s golf climbs to fifth place in OFCC/Fighting Illini Invitational after Day One struggles

Blake Byler, Assistant Sports Editor

Alabama men’s golf followed up last week’s tournament victory with a fifth-place finish at the Olympia Fields Country Club/Fighting Illini Invitational in Chicago. Alabama placed two golfers in the top 10 and three in the top 20 en route to a team total of 850 in the 54-hole event. 

The team had a rough first day and sat in 12th place after Friday, but recorded the best team total over days two and three to climb all the way into the top five of the final leaderboard. The Crimson Tide’s total of 1-under-par on Sunday was its best team round of the season. 

“I really am proud of the way our guys responded over the final 36 holes,” Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said. “This is a tough tournament, and it becomes that much tougher when you start the way we did. The course here will really reveal a lot of things, and I am proud how we competed after a disappointing first round.” 

Alabama was paced by senior Canon Claycomb for the second straight tournament. After winning the individual title in Durham, North Carolina, last week, Claycomb placed eighth overall with a weekend score of 1-under-par (69-72-68). Claycomb entered the tournament ranked No. 9 in the PGA Tour University golf rankings and showcased why, shooting in the 60’s for the third and fourth times in six rounds. 

Junior Thomas Ponder was once again right behind Claycomb, and actually outpaced him at the beginning of the tournament. Ponder finished the tournament shooting even par and placed ninth overall.  

This weekend marked the second tournament in a row that Claycomb and Ponder both placed in the top 10. 

Freshman Nick Dunlap followed up his third-place finish last weekend with a lackluster 77 in the first round, but responded well by shooting 3-under-par over the final two rounds. Dunlap finished the tournament tied for 20th, making him the third Alabama golfer to place in the top 20 for the weekend. 

Freshman Jonathan Griz made his collegiate debut this weekend and struggled similarly to Dunlap with an 83 in the first round. The former top 10 prep golfer improved every round after, shooting 10 strokes better on Saturday and closing out Sunday with a 2-under-par 68. 

Senior Simms Abney was the fifth Alabama golfer to compete, and he finished tied for 72nd with a 19-over-par final score. 

“It’s great to get a top five finish here in what was a very challenging field,” Seawell said. “I think we also went up a couple of notches when it comes to being able to trust one another and that is only going to help us as the season continues.” 

Alabama will look to continue its momentum from the past 36 holes at SEC Match Play at Old Overton Country Club in Birmingham, hosted by the Crimson Tide. The event will begin on Sept. 25 and will conclude on Sept. 27.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]