Sept. 10, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Last season, the University of Alabama men's golf team featured two of the most prolific freshmen golfers in the nation on a team dominated by first-year players.
Bud Cauley and Hunter Hamrick led a group of five freshmen who saw significant playing time for the Tide last year, and now with a year of experience under their belts, head coach Jay Seawell is ready to turn the team over to his young guns.
"I think it will be a good smooth transition from a chemistry standpoint in that it will basically become those young guys team," Seawell said. "We're going to be sophomore and freshman dominated. I'm excited about them putting their personality on Alabama golf."
The preseason No. 4-ranked Crimson Tide opens the fall season at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in Rocky Face, Ga., Sept. 11-13. Unfortunately, the event coincides with the Walker Cup which means UA will be without ace Bud Cauley for the first tournament.
Alabama faces a difficult field on the par-72 7,018 yard Farm golf course that includes six teams ranked in the Golfworld/Nike Coaches Poll top 20. Georgia comes in as the highest rated squad at No. 3 one spot ahead of the Tide. Other highly ranked teams include No. 11 Georgia Tech, No. 15 South Carolina, No. 18 Tennessee and No. 19 Clemson.
"The (Carpet Collegiate) is a great tournament," Seawell said. "They have been putting on this tournament for more than 20 years, and the best of the best always come. The unique thing about it is that we won't have Bud at the first tournament. That will give another young person an opportunity to put their stamp on Alabama golf and college golf, so I'm looking forward to seeing how we handle that."
The Crimson Tide experienced some growing pains with its young team last year, but still remained a top 10 program for the majority of the season. The team flashed loads of potential with titles at the Jerry Pate Invitational and the NCAA Northeast Regional before a disappointing finish at the NCAA Championships where the team missed the cut after 54 holes and finished in 15th place.
Alabama loses two seniors off last year's squad, one of which was three-time All-SEC performer Matthew Swan. Seawell says that replacing Swan and fellow graduated senior Matt Hughes will be a challenge that his young team must face.
"We lose a three time All-SEC performer in Matthew Swan and don't bring anybody in, in recruiting," Seawell said. "That means someone has to step up. It's going to be an opportunity for a young guy who hasn't had a lot of playing time, and so I'm excited to see how they handle that."
One player who has already stepped up and established himself as one of the premiere players in college golf in just one season is sophomore Bud Cauley. Cauley has raked in a king's share of accolades in his brief amateur career including being named to the 2009 Walker Cup team, the highest honor in amateur golf.
In his freshman campaign with the Tide, Cauley was named a second team All-American and SEC Freshman of the Year after finishing in the top five in five of the 10 events he played with a first place finish at the U.S. Collegiate Championship. During the summer, Cauley added to his budding resume with a top 10 finish at the Northeast Amateur before outright winning the prestigious Players Amateur.
"The hardest part in recruiting is to find someone who can play the one position, to be a cart puller, the leader," Seawell said. "We're fortunate that Bud is on our team because he is a legitimate number one man. He thrives on that. I think what he did last year was great, but I think it's just the tip of the iceberg. I think he can be better. We're going to challenge him to be better."
The other half of the Tide's dynamic freshman duo last year was Hunter Hamrick. Hamrick put together an outstanding spring season last year capped off by taking medalist honors at the Northeast Regional. The Montgomery native was named an All-America honorable mention and continued his hot play this summer by winning the Alabama State Amateur and qualifying for the U.S. Amateur.
"If Hunter's spring had matched his fall he would have been every bit as decorated as Bud was," Seawell said. "Anytime you have two guys coming back who made All American that's a big deal, and we're excited about it. I think Hunter and Bud push each other. I think that Hunter is a great compliment to Bud, and Bud is a great compliment to Hunter."
Another player that Seawell expects to step up and contribute this season is redshirt freshman Scott Strohmeyer. Strohmeyer posted some excellent results in summer play with a second place finish at the Palmetto Amateur and a recent victory at the Alabama State Match Play. Seawell believes that Strohmeyer could be poised for a break out year.
"Scott Strohmeyer is probably the hardest worker on our team," Seawell said. "He's probably the hardest worker in college golf. He's very determined and had a good summer, and I think he's someone that no one really knows about. Even in college golf, he wasn't a highly recruited kid or anything like that, but I think he's somebody who by the end of the year could be a potential All American or definitely an All-SEC performer."
Seawell also projects that highly-recruited sophomore Spencer Cole could make the leap this season to become an elite player in college golf. Cole played in six events last season with his best finish coming at the Northeast Regional where he tied for 11th. During his prep career, Cole received numerous honors including being named to the American Junior Golf Association All-America team three straight years.
"I think that (Cole) is starting to come into his own," Seawell said. "He's starting to mature, starting to get comfortable. I think by the end of the year he'll be one of the great players in college golf."
Alabama's 2009 fall schedule looks strikingly similar to last season's fall slate. Including the Carpet Capital, the Tide plays the same four events as last season.
After its first stop in Rocky Face, Ga., the Tide takes a trip across the country to Bremerton, Wash. to play in the Ping/Golfweek Invitational. The squad then returns home to host the Jerry Pate National Collegiate Invitational at the Old Overton Club in Birmingham. Alabama has won the team title at the Jerry Pate the last three seasons.
"Old Overton has gone through some extensive changes to its golf course, so it won't be the same golf course that we've played," Seawell said. "They have added 300 to 400 yards worth of improvements so the scores will be a little bit different. But we look forward to that tournament because it has Mr. Pate's name on it, and of course Old Overton has always been good to Alabama golf."
The Tide closes fall competition at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational in Windermere, Fla., home of Tiger Woods, where the team took second place a year ago. Woods can be seen at the tournament hosting the Stanford team and riding a cart around, which Seawell says makes it an exciting destination for college golfers.
With a core of young talent, promising up-and-comers and a challenging slate of tournaments, the 2009-10 Alabama golf team should be fun to watch this season.