When you are one day away from a national championship, it doesn’t matter if the ending is dominating or dramatic.
Either way, it hurts.
In a remarkable two-week stretch, both University of Alabama golf teams, Mic Potter’s women’s squad and the men coached by Jay Seawell, advanced all the way to the NCAA Championship Finals, a remarkable achievement leavened by losses on the final day that left the Crimson Tide No. 2 in the nation in both tournaments.
“Anyone who tells you that losing a match that isn’t that close hasn’t been through it,” Seawell said. “Our guys hurt. They knew how hard they worked to get there.”
The Alabama men lost to host team Oklahoma State, 5-0, in a match played before a rowdy partisan crowd in Stillwater. A week earlier, on the same course, Alabama’s women dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Arizona as the final match went to an extra hole.
As excruciating as that loss was, Potter says that there have been positives for the UA women.
“Everyone wants to win and we know that opportunities don’t come often,” Potter said. “But in match play, anything can happen and Arizona played with tremendous emotion from qualifying in a playoff in stroke play through the three matches.
“But the crux is, we’ve gotten so much recognition from the way our team handled that loss with class and dignity. I’ve been recruiting in Phoenix and I just spent three days at the U.S. Open (at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham) and the response was overwhelming. Plus the exposure you get from three days in a row on the Golf Channel, you can’t duplicate that.”
Potter had basically wrapped up the Crimson Tide’s recruiting class last November and with the newcomers joining three veterans, the UA women should be strong again in 2019, a likely preseason No. 1 nationally when fall rankings are released.
“We’re returning Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman (who are both playing for Team USA in the Curtis Cup and who will both be Top 10 amateurs in the country next year), along with Angelica Moresco,” Potter said. “We signed the junior college individual champion (Jiwon Jeon of NJCAA powerhouse Daytona State) and she will go into the lineup. We also signed Carolina Caminoli from the Italian National team and Mary Mack Trammell from Mountain Brook High School. So even without Cheyenne Knight (who announced earlier this week that she would become professional) and (graduating senior) Lakareber Abe, we have a pretty good group.”
The finals experience was different for Seawell’s team as Oklahoma State took a quick lead in front of its home crowd and won, 5-0. Many neutral observers like PGA Tour pro Brandt Snedeker questioned the wisdom of allowing a team to play for the title on its home course.
“I told our guys that they will never play in (crowd) conditions like that again, not even if they play in the Ryder Cup,” Seawell said. “But the situation wasn’t too big for them. The crowd wasn’t too big. The play by Oklahoma State was what was too big, and you just have to tip your cap.”
The Alabama men lose two seniors of the five-man rotation, Jonathan Hardee and Lee Hodges, but will have a solid nucleus with sophomores-to-be Wilson Furr and Davis Shore and team leader and senior Davis Riley all returning. Seawell also said that “we left some guys at home (during the NCAA Tournament) who could help us,” including sophomore Josh Sedeno, who played in three tournaments in 2018.
The Crimson Tide also signed two Top 10 prospects in November, adding Prescott Butler of New York and Frankie Capan, who won the Arizona high school Division III Championship last month by firing a record round of 59 at the Tucson Omni course.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.