By Cameron Jourdan
Special to Tidesports
STILLWATER, Okla. – When the Alabama women’s golf team walked off the 18th green last Wednesday, it had a simple message.
“Go win a championship for us.”
Members of the men’s team followed the ladies throughout their national championship bout with Arizona. Ultimately, the Wildcats won and pulled off the upset against Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country.
The men’s team has a chance to do something similar Wednesday, though the task is daunting.
NCAA Golf Championship
Who: Alabama vs. Oklahoma State
When: 2:25 p.m.
Where: Karsten Creek Course, Stillwater, Okla.
TV: Golf Channel
Sixth-seeded Alabama defeated third-seeded Texas Tech and second-seeded Duke on Tuesday to advance to the title match of the NCAA championships against host Oklahoma State. The Crimson Tide defeated Texas Tech 3-and-2 before thrashing Duke 5-and-0 in their quarterfinal and semifinal matches, respectively.
“Something clicked,” Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. “It was a hard-fought match against Texas Tech this morning.”
This is the first time a school has sent its men’s and women’s golf teams to the national championship match since match play started in women’s golf in 2015. In Alabama’s return to match play for the first time since 2014, it will take on the team it defeated that season to win its second consecutive title.
This is the fourth time Alabama has advanced to match play since its inception in men’s collegiate golf in 2009, which is more than any other Division I team. Seawell said if his team sticks to Alabama golf on Wednesday, it could have hardware to take home to Tuscaloosa.
“I like the way my guys play golf, and if they’ll just do what they do, I think we can give them a heck of a match because they are a great team,” Seawell said.
The Crimson Tide got off to a quick start against the Red Raiders, as freshman Wilson Furr won the first five holes of his match to set the tone. He never relinquished his advantage, cruising to victory, 7-and-6.
Davis Riley added Alabama’s second point with his 5-and-4 victory in the second group. Riley was 5-up when he made the turn, and he got as high as 6-up before closing his match out on the 14th hole.
Freshman Davis Shore tallied the winning point, as he captured a 2-and-1 victory on the 8th hole with a clutch putt, something Lee Hodges said sparked the team to its dominating afternoon.
“We have a great team,” Hodges said. “You know, we’ve got a bunch of really good freshmen, and they’re special kids. They don’t play like freshmen, and we’ve got good leadership up at the top.”
Duke was the second seed and set the mark for single-round team scoring record (12-under) Sunday, eclipsing Alabama’s 9-under milestone it set Saturday.
When match play came, Alabama was riding the momentum from earlier in the day. As Shore’s teammates surrounded him on the 8th green after clinching the quarterfinal match, Seawell said he saw a fire lit under his team he hasn’t seen this season.
Shore himself didn’t see a drop-off in play, as he cruised to a 6-up advantage through eight holes. He dropped a stroke on the ninth hole but quickly gained it back and didn’t need many additional holes, winning his match 6-and-5 to give Alabama its first point for a 1-0 lead. Lee Hodges notched the Crimson Tide’s second point with his 3-and-2 victory from the first spot.
Alabama’s putts continued to drop while Duke couldn’t muster a comeback. Riley, a junior, clinched the match with his 3-and-2 win shortly after Hodges secured the second point.
Furr and Jonathan Hardee each led their match when play concluded, and Alabama is moving on to the championship match.