Golf | Alabama fights the elements and shows its depth in a second-place finish

Maxwell Donaldson

The Alabama men’s golf team finished second in the Tiger Invitational last week at 24-under. 

The team finished with three players inside the top 10 led by senior Wilson Furr (-9), who tied for third, and sophomores Thomas Ponder and Canon Claycomb, who were both tied for eighth at 6-under. Alabama was only bested by rival and tournament host Auburn, who shot 26-under. 

Auburn and Alabama started to separate during the second round from the rest of the teams in the tournament. LSU and Vanderbilt tied for third at 13-under while South Carolina rounded out the top five at 11-under. Alabama doesn’t want to accept a second-place finish, but the team knows that SEC competition is some of the best in the country.

“I am starting to see something special with this team,” head coach Jay Seawell said. “They just battle, no matter how tough the situation is. Our guys knew we needed a good result and they went out and got it. We wanted to win. and I thought we put ourselves in great shape, but give credit to Auburn for playing some good golf and finishing down the stretch. Even though we didn’t win, we placed second and beat some really good teams so I am anxious to see what the rest of the spring holds for us.”

Even with senior Davis Shore out for a back injury, the depth of the Crimson Tide was on full display at Auburn. Ponder and Claycomb are starting to find their groove in the lineup. JP Cave was tied for 30th after shooting even throughout the tournament. The four best finishers for the Crimson Tide have been in the starting lineup for each tournament this spring. 

Seeing all four hit their stride now could help the team make runs at championships. Sophomores Jack Goldasich (T46, +4), who played in his second tournament, and Tyler Lipscomb (81, +12) showed depth in the individual spot. They both showed signs of what they can provide to the team as the season progresses.

 Seawell said the team triumphed through the adversity of their last outing, when Alabama was disqualified from the LSU Invitational. Seawell placing second after that showed that this team is built for tough battles.  

“I was really proud of the guys,” Seawell said. “After what happened at LSU, it was a real kick in the pants. I was happy with the way our guys responded to the adversity. You could see it at our first practice after the LSU tournament that our guys just wanted to put their heads down and get back to work.”

 The team played well but there is still some room for improvement. In a challenging course, water hazards lined several holes, so the team focused their most important shots on the tee box. 

“[The team] drove the ball great this week,” Seawell said. “They did everything they were supposed to do.” 

Alabama had to fight the elements with the wind and rain that created a shotgun start on Monday. The team was slated to play 36 holes, but play was suspended in the second round due to poor lighting. On Tuesday, the start of play was delayed, and there was another delay that afternoon.  Seawell viewed the wind as a contributing factor that allowed Auburn to separate from Alabama and take the lead.

“It got tougher especially yesterday morning [Tuesday], and that’s why I think Auburn won. They played a little better in the wind,” he said. “We played good; we didn’t play great. We were a little off our game, a little bit. As the weather came through, a lot of wind, the two of us, that’s where the separation really began because it was a tough day yesterday.  Though we lost the lead, I still think we played pretty solidly, pretty good golf when the weather changed.”

Furr led for parts of the tournament and had a 25-foot putt on the final hole to take a chance for a share of the lead, but he left it just short. Seawell said he sees “tremendous growth” from Furr as a leader and a player this year. Seawell said that Furr has the type of energy to inspire the younger players on the team.

Claycomb is also coming around at the right time. He has shown his potential during the tournament after battling through a dip earlier in the season. 

“You get to see the character, talent and ability of a player during the valley times, and he went to work and worked tremendously hard to get his game back in order,” Seawell said.

Claycomb placed T-24 at the LSU invitational and got his second top-10 placement in his career at Auburn. Seawell seems excited to see the progression after Claycomb struggled early. 

Former Alabama Men’s Golfer turned PGA professional, Justin Thomas won The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass last Sunday. Coach Seawell and the team sent their congratulations to Thomas. 

“ [Thomas is] someone very special to Alabama golf and to me personally,” Seawell said. [He] represents the program and university in many ways. Justin Thomas also sent some ‘atta boys’ after their performance this week, which meant a lot to the team.”  

Alabama will try to keep their momentum going in the Old Waverly Collegiate Tournament in Starkville, Miss. on March 26.