Before Jay Seawell coached Jake DeZoort on the University of Alabama men’s golf team, Seawell coached him and Seawell’s son Jackson on a basketball team for 8-year-olds. When the Seawells first moved to Tuscaloosa in 2002, they moved into the same subdivision as the DeZoorts.
Seawell’s and DeZoort’s relationship started long before college golf and will likely continue long after, despite the two parting ways before it’s over.
Under normal circumstances, DeZoort would have finished his college career at UA and gone on to whatever future awaited him. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled that senior season, but the NCAA granted him an additional year of eligibility to chase that senior season; what it did not grant him was the ability to secure more financial aid than what he was already getting. In need of financial aid to continue his college golf career, DeZoort entered the transfer portal.
“I wouldn’t say it was difficult — just purely from a financial standpoint, it’s a lot of money — but it’s a hard (decision). It’s tough that it has to be that way, I guess,” DeZoort said.
Seawell said of DeZoort, “It was very respectful, he did it the right way and I was just thankful of how he did it and thankful that I got to coach him.”
DeZoort’s exit comes with unfortunate timing for UA golf, as the Tuscaloosa native was finally becoming someone UA would use in match settings.
In his first two seasons, he was not a fixture in UA’s top five for competitive matches — he even thought his freshman year counted as a redshirt year, before he learned (years after the fact) one start made in an individual event counted as an appearance.
That changed in his junior season. He appeared in UA’s final six events, including a 31st-place finish at the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate and a career low round at the SEC Championships.
“When we recruited him, this is what we hoped for: that he would develop over the first few years and he did, and in doing that he actually, in a time when we needed somebody, played incredible golf,” Seawell said. “He is peaking, or getting better, at the right time.
“He had some really good opportunities at good schools, a little smaller in scope but good golf schools. We sat down with his family and told them it may take some time to realize the golf part, so I think he understood that. He wanted to get an engineering degree from here and reveled at the opportunity to do both.”
DeZoort and Seawell are both of the opinion that the engineering degree DeZoort now owns made playing golf at a high level more difficult than normal, if not borderline impossible. As DeZoort put it, “I had to be a student 90 percent of the time. I didn’t get to be much of a golfer.”
DeZoort plans on his final year being one where he can dedicate more to golf. In a perfect world, he’d find a program with scholarship money to offer and a one-year MBA program, both adding business credentials to his engineering degree and taking a less taxing academic route. He’s even willing to complete that MBA online a year later in an effort to ease his academic workload during the competitive seasons.
That golf-school balance is important because the move to a new school — and the additional year of college golf that comes with it — gives DeZoort a new chance to launch a professional career. Had the pandemic not canceled the season, his post-school plans would’ve been entirely based on how he performed over the spring and summer. If he performed well enough, he could’ve launched into the lower ranks of professional golf smoothly; his rough start to the spring of 2020 could have forced to him make a tougher leap to the professional ranks or potentially hold a job and do professional golf on the side.
In this timeline, the summer events that could have formed that timeline now can help him find a new destination. He plans on playing the Spirit of America in Decatur and the Alabama State Amateur Championship, postponed to late July. He may also make a run at the Southern Amateur Championship and US Mid-Amateur Championship qualifying processes, which would give him even more summer starts if he were to qualify.
His hope is playing those events — and playing them well — grabs the attention of college teams trying to add via the transfer portal. The one thing he is certain of is the timeline.
“Every team situation is so dynamic with seniors staying or leaving and players transferring for different reasons,” DeZoort said. “It’s going to be a longer, slower process than normal.”