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

Tide seeking third SEC Championship

Two years ago, the Crimson Tide men’s golf team entered the SEC Championships in St. Simons Island, Ga., ranked No. 1 in the nation, on a mission to dominate a talent-laden field and continue along its path to the NCAA regionals.

Mission accomplished.

Led by four seniors, the Tide coasted to an eight-shot victory over runner-up South Carolina, staking claim to its first SEC Championship in 29 years, having led the tournament from start to finish. Tide senior Michael Thompson captured the individual title with a four-shot victory over teammate Joseph Sykora.

“Those guys sort of played with a chip on their shoulder,” head coach Jay Seawell said. “They finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in one of the polls and took it to heart.”

If this year’s team, ranked 21st in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, is going to accomplish that same feat at the Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia this weekend, it will do so without a senior — and for that matter, not even a junior — teeing up for the Tide. Alabama will bring two sophomores and three freshmen to the links and will be without All-American sophomore Bud Cauley, too.

Cauley began competing in the Verizon Heritage Tournament in Hilton Head, S.C., on Thursday, a Professional Golfers Association sponsored event. Cauley won the 2009 Players Amateur in Hilton Head S.C., which granted him an exemption for this tournament.

“This was a tremendous opportunity for Bud,” Seawell said. “This was something he couldn’t pass up.”

Taking the spot of Cauley will be redshirt sophomore Spencer Cole, who has post-season experience, having competed in both the NCAA regionals and nationals last season.

“Cole is a great player,” sophomore Hunter Hamrick said. “He played last year in some pressure situations and finished 11th at regionals, so I think he will be fine this weekend.”

Seawell said he will be looking for leadership from Hamrick, who is second on the team in scoring average with a 72.75, slightly behind Cauley’s average of 71.32. Hamrick has three tournament victories this season, but says there is much room for improvement.

“I really haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked,” he said. “I haven’t finished tournaments the way I needed to, so that’s going to be the focus now.”

Hamrick is familiar with the Sea Island Golf Club and knows all too well the effect that the wind can have on a course that is closely guarded by the sea.

“If the wind doesn’t blow too hard, the potential is there to score very low,” he said.  “But on the other hand, if the wind is howling, it can really be a test and make the conditions extremely difficult.”

Seawell said because of the parity within the conference, no single team stands out in his mind as the team to beat.

“There are probably nine or 10 teams in our conference who will receive bids to the NCAAs this year,” he said.  “For the past few years, the SEC has been a very tough conference to compete in.”

The Tide will be paired with ninth-ranked South Carolina and 35th-ranked Auburn to begin the tournament.

“You always wanna beat Auburn,” Hamrick said. “You don’t ever wanna lose to Auburn.”

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