Player Diary: Alabama's Justin Thomas (Part 8)
It has been a while, the season has got into full blast and we became pretty busy. It has been great getting back into college golf and the groove of traveling every other week or so. We have started the spring off with a win at the Puerto Rico Classic and a T-2 at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters.
Puerto Rico has always been one of Coach's and the team’s favorite tournaments. It is the way that we kick off the spring and get things going again.
Although we obviously want to win and play well, it is definitely a fun trip in which a lot of family members come to watch and support, along with some beach and pool time. Not often do we get to spend time throwing football on the beach or in the ocean, so we took advantage of it as much as possible. Each day was an 8:00 a.m. shotgun, so we would be done very early, leaving plenty of time for beach and pool.
The weather was a little bit crazy as the course is right near a rainforest. Each day consisted of about the same weather as we played our rounds; sun and very warm as we started our round, then it would pour rain for a few holes, then be sunny the rest of the day. The rain was something we were all used to, as it has seemed to want to do nothing but rain in Tuscaloosa recently. We had a solid week as everybody contributed a lot to each day. We came down the wire with Oklahoma as they were playing some great golf, and really making us play well. We had some clutch birdies by our guys as we finished strong to shoot 14 under on the final day and 33 under for the tournament to beat Oklahoma by 7. Cory Whitsett had a great week as he finished in a tie for second, the best on our team. As for myself, I had a solid week finishing tie for 12th, with just a few bad holes each day that cost me a top-five finish. Although I would have liked to finish better, I am happy I made a few birdies along with the rest of the team down the stretch to help us get a win to start the spring.
After Puerto Rico, we were off a bit to catch up on school and get our game in shape for one of the biggest tournaments of the year, the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas, Nev. Southern Highlands is one of the hardest courses I have played with extremely firm greens pushing 13-14 on the Stimpmeter. We were all very excited to get back as we did not know much about the course, and had struggled to play well there as a team the previous year. We felt we had a little revenge to get on the course.
The course this year was not quite as firm on the greens, but was still very difficult, as you had to plot your way around. The first round of the tournament were conditions I had never played in before. The day started as a gloomy, cold, windy day, which I come to find out, is very rare in Vegas. Quoted by UNLV’s Blake Biddle about the weather, “It’s either is perfect, or absolutely downpours.” It became sunny on my seventh hole and was actually really nice outside, which was very shocking according to the forecast. As I made the ninth tee, in short sleeves, the wind stopped and it became dark again. By the time I approached the ninth green, it was 30 mph winds and it was raining sideways. The playing conditions became very difficult, and as my group made it to the 10th tee, the rain turned to hail. The hail was hitting us in the face as the wind had approached speeds of 40-50 mph. After the hail started, they called a delay (thankfully for us). The conditions were unbelievable as it hailed non-stop for about 30 minutes and we actually hit a few shots in the weather. Overall, it was pretty fun.
We entered the last day trailing the red-hot California Bears by 11, which can easily be made up on a difficult course like that. We gave it a great fight as we got as close as 5, but struggling to finish and a couple late birdies by Cal gave them the victory. I was able to play with fellow Golfweek blogger Max Homa the last day and we had a blast.
Congrats to them on another victory with an amazing field.
I struggled throughout the week, as I finished in a tie for 39th. I didn’t play the back nine very well throughout the week, and that cost me a top spot. I feel good about my game, just a few wayward shots and putts did not drop and kept me from posting good scores. Cory Whitsett again played tremendous as he finished in a tie for first, with a strong finish birdieing four of his last eight holes to make the playoff. In the four-way playoff, Cory made par on the first playoff hole and Patrick Rodgers birdied to win the individual title.
Congratulations to my good buddy Patrick on a great week of golf.
We leave again Wednesday for Statesboro, Ga., for the Schenkel Invitational. It is going to be our second tournament in a three-week span, and we are excited to go try and defend our title from last year.
For anybody who wants to be more updated with either myself, or Alabama Men’s Golf, follow us on twitter to see or hear any updates on a more regular basis and get a little more in depth idea of what’s going on week by week. Follow myself @justinthomas34 and our team @AlabamaMGolf.