After heartbreak last year at the NCAA Championships, Alabama got sweet redemption in winning its first National Championship with a 4-1 victory over Illinois at The Capital City Club’s Crabapple course.
It caps off an under-the-radar spring for the Crimson Tide. As all eyes were on California, Alabama, No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, won six of its seven spring tournaments. Senior Scott Strohmeyer, junior Cory Whitsett and sophomore Justin Thomas all won in the spring (Whitsett won three times).
Bobby Wyatt got off to an extremely fast start Sunday. He won his first seven holes against Illinois freshman Thomas Detry. In that span, he made five birdies and won holes Nos. 1 and 6 with pars. Wyatt’s first lost hole came with a bogey at No. 9, but he closed his match early on No. 13 when his flop shot at the par 3 rolled in for birdie.
Said Wyatt of that shot: “I was really in trouble. I didn’t think I could keep it on the top slope where the pin was and had to hit it as high and soft as I could. I landed it right where I wanted to. The only way it really could’ve stopped was if it hit the pin, and it did.”
Alabama head coach Seawell admitted Wyatt was so far out in front that he didn’t know he was 7 up through seven holes.
“He was so far out in front, it was a great, great start for us,” said Seawell. “That gave us that first point and now you only need two more.”
That second point came at the hands of junior Trey Mullinax. Mullinax battled another Illinois freshman, Charlie Danielson, all the way to the 18th hole. Only once did Danielson have the lead, which came at the first.
Mullinax and Danielson were in the fairway on 18, but both missed their approaches right of the green. It was a chip-off for possibly a second point or extra holes. Danielson left his chip 6 feet short, and Mullinax put his to 3 feet. Mullinax would make his putt after Danielson had missed. Chalk up another one on the board for the Crimson Tide.
At that point, Strohmeyer and Whitsett had big leads heading into the final stretch of holes. Strohmeyer was 2 up on the 16th green over Illinois’ Brian Campbell and Whitsett was 4 up over Alex Burge right behind him on 15 green.
Cheers could be heard all around Crabapple on Sunday and there was no exception when Whitsett was conceded par on 15. Less than 10 seconds later, Strohmeyer made par to win his match 3 and 2. Whitsett will be remembered as clinching the National Championship with a 4 and 3 victory.
As soon as 2012 Haskins Award winner Justin Thomas knew that, he threw his bag and arms in the air and started off in a dead sprint to the 15th green to find the rest of his teammates. He found Mullinax on the way and gave each other a big hug and then continued to run.
Thomas conceded his match to 2012 NCAA Individual Medalist Thomas Pieters. Pieters, the only winner for the Illini in the final match, played in his last collegiate tournament as he announced earlier this spring he will turn professional after the season. Pieters won, 1 up.
It’s hard to imagine just any team could just turn around and win a National Championship the following year after such a painful ending to 2012. But if anyone could do it, Alabama could and did.
“I came here (Alabama) for a reason,” Thomas said. “And that was the reason I came here for and it’s unbelievable to get it done.”
Seawell is just happy to see his players smile after their 365-day wait to try and claim the championship.
“It means a lot because I get to see the smile on each one of the players’ faces, which means the most to me,” Seawell said. “To see Cory Whitsett, the pain of last year, will probably always be in my heart; to see the happiness, that means the most. That’s probably the biggest part of it.”
Said Strohmeyer, the lone senior in this starting five: “It’s my last year, and to finish on top I’m speechless.”
Roll tide roll.