Men’s golf overcomes mental, physical hurdles to place 11th at Old Waverly

The team will head to Shoal Creek on Monday for its next tournament.

Maxwell Donaldson, Contributing Writer

Alabama men’s golf placed 11th in the Old Waverly Collegiate Championship with an overall, 8-over par score of 872 (297-280-295). The wet conditions gave the Crimson Tide a challenge all weekend.

Alabama sophomore Thomas Ponder led the Crimson Tide at 1-under and tied for 16th. This secured his fifth top-20 performance of the season. Head coach Jay Seawell praised Ponder for his recent success, noting that the sophomore’s preparation begins well before a tournament. 

“He is probably the most organized systematic practicer that I’ve ever coached at this age,” Seawell said. “He is a COVID freshman, second year. He is really an I-dotter, a T-crosser in preparation. You can see the growth of a player because of that.”  

That preparation has certainly helped Ponder hit his groove this season.

 Another Alabama freshman, J.P. Cave, has also hit his stride. Cave tied for 46th at 4-over par. He has made great strides this season, in part due to his buying into the program despite being down the depth chart back in November. Cave has also been putting in the work like Ponder, and it’s beginning to pay off.

Senior Wilson Furr tied for 46th with Cave on Sunday. His experience with tough conditions benefited him during the weekend. Furr was able to keep a positive attitude and finish the round at 1-under. That round was the best on the team Sunday. Alabama sophomore Canon Claycomb continued his stretch of quality play, tying for 33rd at 2-over. Rounding out the starting line-up was sophomore Jack Goldasich, who tied for 78th at 13-over. In the individual spot was sophomore Simms Abney, who placed 83rd at 23-over.

Similar to other tournaments this season, the weather was a factor for the Crimson Tide. Thursday’s storm caused Alabama to miss its practice round. The team uses those practice rounds before a tournament to get a feel for the course and lay out a game plan. This led to a first-round where the team came in cold, lacking the insight it usually depends on. The team shot a 9-over par 297, which put them in 14th place after the first day.

 Alabama showed improvement Saturday and Seawell said the team’s mentality was the key.  

“We’re a good team when we’re mentally tough,” Seawell said. “I think we were way too emotional during the round and when we [are]—I hate to use the word, but—immature emotionally and mentally in a golf round, we’re just not very good. But when we handle our emotions and the things that can happen in athletics, the game of golf, we’re very good.

After some post-first round team discussions, Alabama was able to regroup. The team responded with an 8-under par 280 round that put Alabama in a position to finish the tournament in a good spot.

The weather struck again overnight and made the course wetter than before. This led to a four-hour delay before play on Sunday so that crews at Old Waverly and Mississippi State University could get the course back into playing condition. 

“There were a lot of factors in that final round, and that’s why scores were a lot higher for pretty much the whole tournament,” Seawell said. 

On Sunday, Alabama shot a 7-over 295 to fall back into 11th place, but many teams shot higher rounds. The team had to quickly adjust to a different-feeling course, and it challenged the younger players on the team. After the tournament, Seawell discussed the learning experience a situation like Sunday provided the young players.

“That’s where I have an understanding for freshman, understanding when situations change, that’s where… younger guys definitely need to learn,” Seawell said. “I think that’s something they’ll learn and understand that every day is not the same, every day has a value, the condition changes, golf scores change. I think that comes with more experience.”  

Alabama was once again missing senior Davis Shore, who is still out with a back injury that hasn’t healed up correctly. Seawell explained why Shore was not in the lineup this week.  

“He just is getting his back better, it’s a lingering thing,” Seawell said. “We’re hoping he’ll be ready to go by championships. He’s still out and he still has a game-time decision this week. It’s not something that can re-injure itself, it’s something still taking full time to heal. This time we’re going to fully heal it before we try to do something again.”

Alabama will compete again on Monday, April 5 at the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate at the Shoal Creek Country Club outside of Birmingham. The event is a 3-day, 54-hole event and will be the final event of the regular season for the Crimson Tide.