Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Men’s golf team has extraordinary volunteer efforts amidst upcoming NCAA Regionals

With conference championships having just ended, most golf teams were preparing for the NCAA Regionals coming up in a couple weeks.  But for the Alabama men’s golf team, NCAA Regionals were the least of their worries as the tornado sirens blared on April 27, 2011.

Having lived in Tuscaloosa for a while, head coach Jay Seawell had been used to tornadoes coming through pretty often. But as the tornado warnings sounded, he knew there was something different about that day.

“When you watched the news on TV, you got the feeling something different was happening that day,” Seawell said. “I called my assistant and told him to get everyone off the practice range. It wasn’t raining or anything but just seemed like there was something different that day, so I got all the players sent home or to a safe place.”

Sophomore Cory Whitsett was in the middle of his legal studies final when the tornado sirens went off. After hurrying back to his apartment, he was able to see the incoming tornado that was only half a mile away.

“It was one of the scariest things I have ever seen.” Whitsett said. “Something that big and powerful moving through like that. We’ve had warnings earlier in the spring, but nothing really happened, so to see something like that was just unbelievable.”

After the tornadoes had finally passed through, Whitsett was in disbelief when he saw the extent of the damage.

“I was just in shock,” Whitsett said. “So many things I had seen and gone to my whole freshman year were gone in a matter of five minutes.”

Even with NCAA Regionals approaching, Seawell decided to send his players home for a week and half while everything settled down in Tuscaloosa.

“I told them just go home, get your feet on the ground, hug your mommy and your daddy and just be away from here for a little bit,” Seawell said.

The team came back after a week and half off, and they went back to work getting ready for the NCAA Regionals. Amid their busy practice schedule, the team made sure to find a lot of time to help out those who needed aid, working with Alberta Baptist Church on relief efforts. At times the team would get up early to help clear debris and tree limbs, leave to go train at the practice range, and then, go right back to clearing debris and tree limbs.

Senior Hunter Hamrick said he was happy to see how the team was able to make a difference in some of the tornado-damaged areas.

“We cleaned up three or four homes, where it just came through and destroyed everything, and the owners were there from the houses and were really appreciative,” Hamrick said. “We could see the progress. The yard — you couldn’t even take a step when we started from the street, and we completely cleaned up the whole yard and fifteen-foot piles of trash and limbs. It felt really good to help out.”

Seeing the amount of effort the community gave to relief efforts gave the team a sense of pride and motivation going into NCAA Regionals; an inspiration the team used to finish third in NCAA Regionals and qualify for the NCAA Championships.

“Watching everyone help out was just inspiring,” Whitsett said. “We were playing for our team, but we were playing for way more than that. We were playing for our whole community.”

A year later, the team is still trying to do their part to help out in the community. Seawell said the team is involved with Habitat for Humanity to try to get a golf-team sponsored house so they can continue to help those who need aid.

“We are in the process of doing the little things we need to do to raise the funds to build and have a house that is truly sponsored by just our Golf program,” Seawell said. “That has been our next step, after all the blue-collar glove work of removing stuff and what we are going to do next to continue to rebuild our community, and this is something we feel like we can do to help.”

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