Strohmeyer proves to be Tide's unknown catalyst
Sunday, June 2, 2013
PHOTOS: Alabama, 2013 national champions
View images of the 2013 National Championship. Alabama defeated Illinois for the win.
MILTON, Ga. -- Scott Strohmeyer was your typical late teenager when he enrolled at Alabama in the fall of 2008.
A know-it-all, thinking he needed little coaching – basically too big for his own britches.
He'd redshirt that first year with the Tide, albeit with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
When he returned for his sophomore academic year, his attitude got in the way of progress on the course – something he could ill afford, considering he didn't pick up the game until he was 12 or 13 and seemingly leaving himself a big learning curve against college golf's best. He had no top-10s in 11 events his first season.
He was refusing to listen to head coach Jay Seawell.
"I thought I knew everything," said Strohmeyer, a native of Auburn, Ala. "Coach and I kind of butted heads, mainly because of me. I needed to be woken up. I thought I knew everything, I thought I knew how to play golf. I thought, 'Who is this coach telling me how I should play golf?'"
That attitude didn't work for Teri Strohmeyer, Scott's mother. She wasn't too happy with her son's stubborn behavior, and that is all that Scott needed to hear.
"My mom was upset in a way that I was being so stubborn. So I humbled myself and let coach coach me," said Strohmeyer, who played baseball until he was 13. "I took about a year to listen to him; I was still stubborn. He has changed my game. I used to hit driver on every hole. I thought you just hit it as long as you can and go find it."
What they found was some massive game, one that might go under the radar because of Alabama's "Big Three" in Justin Thomas, Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett.
But all three pointed to one moment – the moment that Strohmeyer was added into the lineup in the spring of 2012 – that catapulted the Tide to two consecutive national championship finals, including the title they won Sunday at the Capital City Club over Illinois.
Seawell inserted Strohmeyer into the lineup for the Schenkel Invitational last spring, and the Tide have won 12 tournaments since.
"It changed our team," said Cory Whitsett. "(Strohmeyer) changed our program."
That attitude has evolved to serve as a plus.
"He has a confidence about him that the other guys just love. He's our captain," said Seawell. "I told him I've made you the most uncomfortable of any player I have ever coached. I recognized he played better when he was uncomfortable."
Uncomfortable was the position that Strohmeyer, the lone Alabama senior, was facing in a 20-foot par putt from the fringe on the par-3 13th hole Sunday. A miss would have handed the lead back to opponent Brian Campbell.
But he buried it – and you could hear the roars on the other side of the course – then moved on to win both Nos. 14 and 15 to propel himself to a 3-and-2 victory, posting the fourth point in a 4-1 victory.
"That's Scott Strohmeyer's leadership," said Seawell.
It's a quiet leadership according to roommate Justin Thomas, one that the rest of the starting five has obviously responded to well.
"He's not one to start controversy. Always speaks from the heart. He's not a captain that will start drama, but he'll say something if he needs to."
Strohmeyer's impact on his team has given teammate Trey Mullinax a partner in the land of the unknown, normally an afterthought for those following Tide golf. But, in match play at the NCAAs, nobody can hide. Mullinax was up to the task Sunday.
Caught in a back-and-forth battle with Illinois' Charlie Danielson, Mullinax never trailed after the first hole, eventually two-putting for par on 18 – "he was so nervous he couldn't feel his putter," Seawell said – that sent a contingent of Tide fans into a tizzy behind the green.
"Words can't describe it," said Mullinax, a junior, still taking in the hysteria of shrieks of "Roll Tide!" from all around him.
"I think Trey Mullinax grew as a player. You can't teach today. You live it. After the fact, you grow from it," Seawell said. "Today will do more for Trey's career in golf than anything we could ever do for him."
Wyatt knew that Sunday – actually, for the three days of match play – that success didn't necessarily have to come from the top of the lineup.
"It's a five-man team. Five matches, you've got to win three of them. Scott was down, Trey was close, in a grind match. Those guys stepped up, Scott in his last match. Can't tell you how excited I am for them."
Neither Strohmeyer nor Mullinax bristle at the lack of attention they receive, whether post-match interviews or being on the back page of the team's media guide.
"There's nothing wrong with being in the shadows and coming out on top," said Mullinax.
"We are a team," said Strohmeyer, his team-first attitude shining through.
"(We play) with three of the best players in the country, probably in three or four years, the best players in the world. Trey and I love it. We get to be around the three best players in the country."
In entered a child, and out rolled a man.