Men’s golf defeats Army in fifth annual Bush Cup


UA golfer Tyler Libscomp hits out of the sand and lands his ball on the green. CW / Hannah Saad

Alabama men’s golf defeated Army, 8-5, in the fifth annual Bush Cup on Tuesday, courtesy of a new hip and a few plebes.

The competition, which pits West Point against a different school each year to honor former President George H.W. Bush, featured 13 total matches. It began with four foursomes, or alternate shot, matches in the morning, followed by nine singles matches in the afternoon at Shoal Creek Country Club in Birmingham.

Alabama freshman Thomas Ponder was the star for the Crimson Tide, teaming with sophomore Frankie Capan to earn a 6-and-5 win in the morning and defeating his singles opponent by the same margin in the afternoon.

As Alabama coach Jay Seawell placed Ponder’s name on the board for singles, he called him “the plebe,” a nod to Army’s term for freshmen.

Ponder shot 6-under par over the 13 holes he played in singles, including a tee shot to within three feet on the 220-yard par-3 fifth. He made the birdie putt to move to 3-under on his round and win his fifth straight hole to start the match.

He added birdies on the seventh, ninth and 12th holes and closed out the match on the 13th to end a dominant day. The next-best score by an Alabama player in singles was junior Wilson Furr’s 1-over par 73.

Ponder and Capan, who shot 3-under on nine holes while playing alternate shot during practice on Monday, jumped on their opponents early, birdieing two of the first three holes. They lost the sixth hole before a Ponder chip to three feet helped them save par to win the seventh.

“Two-up in match play, anything can happen,” Capan said. “But you have a little bit of a comfort zone there. I’d say that was probably the turning point in the match.”

They then won four of the next six holes to put the first point on the board for Alabama.

“In practices and in the rounds they’ve played at home, you can just tell they have a compatibility,” Seawell said. “They fed off each other, they played really nice golf. I thought that would be a good pairing and I was glad it was.”

Alabama’s first team out in the morning was a pair of Jackson, Mississippi, natives: Furr and plebe Simms Abney.

They took a 2-up lead to the short, par-4 14th hole, but Furr’s tee shot found the trees – to the junior’s surprise.

“Nice shot, Wilson,” he muttered to himself when he saw the ball lying in the pine straw.

Abney’s escape hit a tree and bounced backward, and the duo’s lead was chopped in half.

Assistant coach Jon Howell, who knows both players from his time working at the Country Club of Jackson, joined them in the 15th fairway. When Furr’s approach came up short of the flag, he looked at Abney, who merely shrugged. They won the hole with a par, extending their lead back to 2 up, and took that lead to the 17th hole.

With their cadet counterparts within four feet for birdie on the par 5, Furr and Abney were just over the green facing a simple birdie chip that could clinch the match. As Furr’s ball landed on the green and bit into the smoothly mown grass, he took a confident step forward and began to raise his club, believing the match was over.

As it burned the edge and spiraled a foot away, he held the club up to his face in disbelief, slightly elevating his hat off his head in the process. Army made the birdie putt to extend the match, and the four moved on to the final tee box.

Furr, Abney and Seawell gathered to discuss Abney’s options for the approach into the famed 18th, an undulating green framed by a lake on the left and the clubhouse perched on a hill in the background. After they decided it was similar to his wedge shot on the previous hole, the freshman’s approach found the green, leaving Furr a steeply uphill 25-footer for birdie.

Army’s Samuel Kim struck a well-paced putt from 30 feet away, on the opposite side of the green. His father prepared to celebrate as it approached, but it slid by, settling two feet beyond the hole.

Furr, with a putt to win the match, left it four feet short, putting the pressure on Abney’s shoulders.

“I went over there and said, ‘You good?’” Seawell said. “He said yeah. He was nervous, which – that’s what this is about. You want to give everybody a chance to play to get into the vibe of the competition. I told him, ‘You’re gonna have a lot more putts just like that the rest of your career.’”

The plebe sunk his four-footer, with an assist from the edge of the cup. He and Furr, the leadoff men, won the match 1 up. Abney would win his singles match in the afternoon, joining Capan and Ponder as players to win both of their matches.

Freshman Simms Abney makes the par putt to win his alternate shot match. (CW / Hannah Saad)

Alabama added a third point when senior Jake DeZoort and sophomore Prescott Butler teamed up to win 4-and-2. Freshman Tyler Lipscomb and redshirt sophomore Ben Fuller lost, 1 down.

Eight of the team’s nine players competed in alternate shot – all but junior Davis Shore, whom Seawell slotted in the second singles match, behind Furr.

“I like Wilson going out early. I think he just has that energy – he don’t want to sit around here and wait,” Seawell said. “… D-Shore didn’t play this morning, so I know he’s itching at the bit. I want to get him out.”

Shore sat out the morning session as he continues to work his way back from surgery last spring to fix a torn labrum. The injury resulted from a cam impingement, which is friction between the hip socket and an irregularly-shaped head of the femur.

The pain had escalated over time, culminating during the team’s tournament in Cabo, Mexico. After Shore hit the shot, he could barely step up out of the bunker, let alone complete the round.

He played as an individual in the team’s season-opening Carpet Capital Collegiate earlier this month, his first time playing four days in a row since the surgery.

On Tuesday, with the first match out of range, Shore took a few practice swings on the first tee and sent his ball down the left side of the fairway, his first shot that counted toward the team’s score since early March.

“Attaboy, D-Shore. Good swing,” Seawell said as the junior walked off the first tee. “Welcome back.”

The team will be back in action from Friday through Sunday at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational in Olympia Fields, Illinois.


Full singles scores and results:

Ponder (6-under par through 13) won 6-and-5

Furr (1-over par 73) lost 2 down

Capan (1-over par through 16) won 3-and-2

DeZoort (2-over par through 17) lost 2-and-1

Abney (2-over par through 16) won 3-and-2

Shore (3-over par 75) won 1 up

Butler (4-over par through 17) lost 2-and-1

Fuller (4-over par through 16) won 4-and-2

Lipscomb (12-over par 82) lost 1 down