Player Diary: Alabama's Justin Thomas (Part 11)
It was a great start to our postseason last weekend at the SEC Championship. The tournament was held in Sea Island, Ga., at the Seaside course; a place that we always love playing and tests our golf games to the highest level.
The SEC Championship is truly a one of a kind tournament we play all year. It is very important to all schools that they want to be known as the best in their conference. As our trainer at school here says “we play to win championships." The first two days were rather calm days with winds being rather normal for the Sea Island area; about 10-20 mph. We had played solid golf, but just hadn’t had our rounds come together for the whole day. Also, we had gotten off to rough starts that forced us fighting back all day. Because of this fighting back, we left ourselves in a great spot going into the last day. We were three behind the South Carolina Gamecocks, who had played very solid golf for two days.
The final day brought conditions that were only fitting for the final round of a conference championship. Winds were at speeds of anywhere from 25-35 mph; speeds that many of us are not familiar with. Although it was difficult, we really looked forward to the challenge and wanted to be ready for it. With days playing that difficulty, we knew being mentally strong and extremely patient on the course was going to help us in the end. It was an extremely intense day of golf as South Carolina, Auburn, and ourselves battled it out all day. We played very solid all day, and stayed very patient in the brutal conditions. To give everybody an example: the first hole at Seaside is about 420 yards, and with it playing a little downwind the first day I hit a 3 wood then a sand wedge. The final round with the opposite and very strong wind into our face, I hit a driver and a 4-iron. The day came down to the final three holes, which is what we always preach in playing our best at Alabama. South Carolina had continued to play well, and so had everybody on our team. With us finishing strong, we were able to hold off South Carolina by a total of two shots to win our second consecutive SEC Championship. I want to say how well South Carolina played, and how hard they were to play against coming down the stretch; it was a great battle. Individually, we had another great week by Cory Whitsett, finishing third, Trey Mullinax finished ninth, Bobby Wyatt finished T-10, and Scott Strohmeyer finished T-27. I had an up and down week, struggling to get off to good starts each day. I made a few big numbers and had a few bad runs of holes the first two rounds, which hurt me. The final day I really played well and was proud of myself to finish with a birdie on the last hole. It had been a while since I was in contention individually or our team was coming down to the final hole, so it was awesome to get that feeling going again. I ended up finishing in a tie for 12th.
This win was dedicated to the late great Mal Moore, who passed away not long ago. He was our previous athletic director and very close with Coach Seawell and all of us on the team. This one was for you Coach Moore!
I want to thank everybody who came out that week to support us at the SEC Championship. It was an unbelievable tournament and week I will never forget. Congratulations to Sebastian Cappelen on an unbelievable final round, bogey-free 66 in those brutal conditions to win the individual title.
We are finishing up school for the year as we have finals next week. We have regionals in about three weeks or so, with our site being unknown yet. We will continue to practice and stay on the grind as the national championship nears!