Last year, Alabama did not end the year the way it wanted too. With a ninth place finish at the NCAA East Regional at Yale University Golf Club, the Crimson Tide were unable to advance to to the NCAA Championship. With the new season just a few weeks old, Alabama junior Hunter Hamrick offers some insight about how his team is determined to get back on track.
Your team has two standout freshmen this year: Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt. How are they fitting in to their searsuckers?
They are really good. I don’t even think the team looks at them as freshmen anymore. They have a ton of experience playing big-time golf before coming to Alabama, and so far they have played really well. As a team, we are still trying to work on some things and trying to get better each and every day. Those two, though, will be a big part of our success down the road.
Last year did not go the way you had hoped. I think it’s fair to say it was an inconsistent year. What are you and the team trying to do to improve upon last season?
I think Bud (Cauley), myself, and the whole team are working real hard to get things back on track this year. We’ve changed some things around for this year. Last year nothing seemed to work. We tried moving workouts around, adjusting schedules, and still nothing worked. This year is a fresh start and we know we can win, and we have a lot of confidence already. We started the year with a win at the Carpet Capital and followed that up with a top five finish at Olympia Fields. Last year it was just hard to enjoy anything with the way we struggled most of the time. This year it’s fun again because we are starting off the year on a real positive note.
Not only is Alabama supposed to have a bounce-back year, but Auburn is supposed to be really good too. Is there a rivalry there between the two teams, or is that just football?
I think there is a rivalry there. I remember there was this tournament in Montgomery called the Montgomery Invitational and both Clinard (Auburn coach) and Seawell (Alabama coach) were there. Both coaches stood up and said they welcome the rivalry and it was fun as a player to see that. Both teams are really good, but so far we are one up on them. They are definitely a good team and will continue to be a tough rival. As of right now, though, Seawell hasn’t put that much emphasis on going out to beat them, but I think he’ll make it a big deal if we lose to them. Until then, as long as we can keep beating them, then everything’s good.
It was odd not seeing Alabama at the NCAA Championship last year. What was it like from the sidelines?
It was weird. Some teams make a big deal about just getting to nationals, but we kind of expect to be there. When we got done at the regional we all just looked at each other and were like, ‘What now?’ It just wasn’t what we were use to, for the season to just come to an end. We didn’t know what to expect. We missed out, and knew we had to build ourselves back up to make sure we get back to nationals. This year I can guarantee we will have a fire under us all year, because we have big expectations. When we started the year we had three expectations: Have the highest team GPA at Alabama, win our school’s community service award, and win championships. First we’d like to win SECs and then go on to compete for a national championship. These are all goals we have as a team and that’s what we want to accomplish.
What a year it will be for individuals in college golf, huh? Uihlein, Chung, Langley, you, Bud – take your pick. What do you think about all the talent college golf has right now?
I think college golf is pretty loaded. You look at the PGA now and can see some recent college players doing some big and great things. My class of 2008 had some great players and was loaded. I think we have all worked really hard and that the top 20-30 college players are hard to beat at any given tournament. Peter (Uihlein), David (Chung), Bud (Cauley), Russell Henley, and (Scott) Langley have separated themselves from a big pack. After them, I think there’s another 20 or so guys that can win any given week. It’s all about consistency and you have to have that to be a great player. I think it will be a really fun year to see who gets hot, stays hot, and ends up finishing No. 1.