NCAA Regional awaits Alabama men's golf team
SAMMAMISH, Wash. – The Alabama Crimson Tide is set to open play next week at the 2017 NCAA Men's Golf Regional. The three-day, 54-hole regional will be held Monday through Wednesday, May 15-17, and will be hosted by the University of Washington on the par 71, 6,885-yard course Aldarra Golf Club.
The 14-team regional features No. 1 seed USC, who enters the event as the top-ranked team in the country. Kent State, ranked No. 12 in the nation, is the No. 2 seed, followed by No. 3 seed and 13th-ranked Texas A&M. The rest of the field includes No. 4 Florida State, No. 5 Washington, No. 6 Alabama, No. 7 San Diego State, No. 8 UTEP, No. 9 Penn State, No. 10 Michigan, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 12 Seattle, No. 13 Marquette and No. 14 Bryant.
The top five teams from each of the six regional sites and the top individual finisher not on an advancing team will move on to the NCAA Men's Golf National Championship, which will be played at Rich Harvest Farms course in Sugar Grove, Ill., on May 26-31. In all, the national championship will feature 30 teams and six individuals.
Alabama in the NCAAs
This year's at-large berth to the 2017 NCAA Regional marks the Tide's 14th consecutive invitation to NCAA postseason competition under the leadership of head coach Jay Seawell, and 27th appearance overall in the tournament. Alabama has won four NCAA Regionals overall, capturing the 2009 NCAA Galloway (N.J.) Regional, the 2012 NCAA Athens (Ga.) Regional, the 2013 NCAA Baton Rouge (La.) Regional and the 2014 NCAA Auburn (Ala.) Regional.
In all, the Crimson Tide has reached Nationals on 18 different occasions, including eighth times in the last 10 years. The 2017 team will make the 10th appearance at Nationals in Seawell's 15 seasons at the helm of the Alabama men's golf program.
The Tide is coming off one of the best stretches in modern collegiate golf. Alabama won back-to-back national titles in 2013 and 2014, becoming one of three teams to earn consecutive championships since 1984 (Houston in 1984 and 1985, Augusta State in 2010 and 2011). The Tide also finished runner-up to Jordan Spieth and Texas in 2012, falling on the last hole of match play by one shot.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament switching to regional format in 1991, the Crimson Tide made five NCAA Finals appearances in 1973-75, 1981 and 1983 under head coach Conrad Rehling. Alabama has 27 total appearances (regionals and finals) in the NCAA men's golf tournament. The 1975 team, which featured Crimson Tide legend Jerry Pate, earned UA's fourth-best finish in the NCAA Finals with a tie for third place. Following Rehling's last trip in 1983, Alabama didn't make its return to the NCAA Finals until 1992 when Spybey's squad finished 11th. Following trips to the NCAA Finals in 1993 and again in 1996, UA would not return for another eight years until Seawell's 2005 team advanced out of the East Regional.
Breaking Down The Alabama Fivesome
The Crimson Tide lineup for the 2017 NCAA Regionals will be the same as each of the last three tournaments in which UA has competed.
Playing in the top slot for the Tide will be second team All-SEC performer and 2016 honorable mention All-American Davis Riley. The sophomore from Hattiesburg, Miss., could not play in the team's first two tournaments this spring due to an injury, but enters NCAA play as one of the hottest golfers on the team. Riley tops the Tide with a 71.19 per round stroke average and a 0.10 average vs. par to rank 47th nationally in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. He comes into this week's event having finished among the top-12 individuals in four consecutive tournaments, while 20 of his 21 rounds (.952) played this year have counted toward the team total. At the SEC Championships, Riley set a new season low with a 66 – the lowest round by a Tide golfer this season – in the first round of stroke play. Prior to that, Riley shot a career-low 207 (71-68-68) and finished ninth at the Mason Rudolph Championship
Playing in the No. 2 slot is junior Lee Hodges, who is the only Crimson Tide golfer to make the starting lineup in all nine tournaments this season. Hodges, who transferred from UAB to Alabama last summer, ranks second on the team in stroke average (71.56) and has seen 25 of his 27 rounds (.926) count toward the team total. Hodges is currently ranked No. 69 nationally by the Golfweek/Sagarin Index Player Performance Rankings. Earlier this spring, he won the Desert Mountain Intercollegiate with a 10-under 206 (69-68-69) on his way to being named the SEC Men's Golfer of the Week (March 8). The Ardmore, Tenn., native has shot in the 60s in nine of his last 15 rounds to give him a team-leading 12 rounds in the 60s this season and has scored par or better in 17 of his last 21 rounds heading into play at the NCAA Regionals.
Jonathan Hardee will be at the three spot for the Tide this week. Hardee, who missed the entire fall season while recovering from offseason surgery, has been one of the top players for Alabama this spring. He is currently ranked No. 110 nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin performance index. The Greeg, S.C., native ranks third on the team with a 71.67 average and is second on the squad at 3-over par for the year (0.17 per round). He has four top-20 finishes in his six tournaments played this spring.
Alabama Reaches Semifinals of 2017 SEC Championship
After finishing sixth in stroke play, the Alabama Crimson Tide reached match play where it eventually fell in the semifinals at the 2017 Southeastern Conference Men's Golf Championships. This year's event featured a new format that included 54 holes of stroke play over the first two days, followed by the top eight teams advancing to match play over the final two days.
The Crimson Tide finished in sixth place following stroke play with a team total of 11-over par 851 (275-288-288) to advance to the match play portion. Alabama defeated No. 3 seed and seventh-ranked LSU, 3-1-1, during the opening round of match play before falling to second-seeded Texas A&M, 3-2, later that same afternoon. Top seed and No. 1 Vanderbilt went on to defeat the Aggies, 3-2, to claim the SEC crown.