Relying on the performance of freshmen can sometimes be like walking a tightrope with no net below.
No matter how impressive their junior record may be, there is still a question mark surrounding freshman when they tee it up at the college level. The adjustment scale is often heavy with classes, a new environment, new people, more regimented work and practice.
Alabama coach Jay Seawell finds himself in that position this season. Sure, the Crimson Tide have two proven performers coming back in Bud Cauley and Hunter Hamrick. But if Alabama is to bounce back from off-year last season, a pair of incoming freshman – outstanding ones at that – have to step up quickly.
That’s exactly what Bobby Wyatt and Corey Whitsett did last weekend as Alabama opened its 2010-11 campaign by winning the Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga.
The Tide shot 8-under 856 to give Seawell, entering his ninth season at the helm, his 16th tournament victory at Alabama, and the program’s third Carpet Capital win in the last four years.
Alabama bested Atlantic Coast Conference powers Wake Forest (by four shots) and Georgia Tech and Clemson (by six shots). Southeastern Conference foes Auburn was fifth, 11 shots behind, and Georgia, which tied for sixth with Texas Tech, was 20 shots back in the 12-team field that included eight teams in Golfweek’s preseason top 30.
Wyatt, of Mobile, Ala., who this past summer shot a 57 en route to victory in the Alabama State Junior, led the Tide attack, finishing fourth at 5-under 211.
Cauley, showing the form that earned him selection to the 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team, tied for fifth at 212, while Whitsett, the 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur champion from Houston, tied for 12th at 216.
Rounding out the solid team effort, Hamrick tied for 27th while Scott Strohmeyer tied for 34th.
It was the Tide’s first victory since last fall when they won their own Jerry Pate National Invitational and certainly shows the boys from Tuscaloosa are primed to get back into the nation’s spotlight.
Alabama ended last season on a sour note. In fact, to be totally honest, it was a horrible note. It finished 10th at Augusta State’s event, followed up with a 12th (that would be dead last) at the SEC Championship and then failed to qualify for the NCAA finals after a ninth at the East Regional.
But that was then, and this is now.
Alabama’s combination of talented experience and youth just might bring high Tide back to golf in Tuscaloosa.
Can Alabama keep it going? We won’t have long to wait. The men in Crimson are back in action Friday at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields CC just outside of Chicago.