Saturday, October 11, 2003
BIRMINGHAM - It has an "alumni" roster that includes PGA Tour household names: Tiger Woods. Justin Leonard. David Duvall. Stewart Cink. Notah Begay. Charles Howell. David Berganio.
Woods and Berganio both won it, Woods as a sophomore at Stanford in 1994 who set a record at Shoal Creek in the process and Berganio as an Arizona golfer in 1992.
The Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate is a showcase of future stars, an event that brings the nation's best collegiate golfers to Birmingham each fall. And the 2003 field is no exception. Twelve teams are converging in Birmingham for the 2003 JPNI, named in honor of former University of Alabama golfer Jerry Pate, a U.S. Amateur Champion who found great success on the PGA Tour and who is now playing on the Champions Tour. Ten of the 12 teams here are currently ranked in the nation's Top 10. One, Clemson, is the defending NCAA champion. The tournament begins with two rounds Monday, October 13 and the final round on Tuesday, October 14 at Birmingham's Old Overton Club off the Liberty Parkway exit.
"There has been a lot of tremendous talent at this event over the years," said Pate on the Crimson Tide's weekly radio show, "Hey, Coach" on Thursday night. "We've had a lot of great golfers participate and this is another great field."
The event, which has raised more the $750,000 for Alabama charities in the last 12 years, will include in its 2003 field No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Georgia, No. 7 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Texas, No. 9 Georgia Tech, No. 10 Augusta State, No. 11 Wake Forest, No. 12 UNLV, No. 17 Arizona, No. 25 Auburn, host Alabama and UAB, both of whom have been receiving top 25 votes this fall.
Collectively the teams make a powerful field, but so, too, will be the race for medalist. This tournament could include 13 returning All-Americans, led by one of the nation's top amateurs, Bill Haas. Son of PGA Tour player Jay Haas, Bill plays for Wake Forest.
"I think it's the best college golf tournament in the country," said Alabama head golf coach Jay Seawell. "It's one the teams want to come to, from the West, the East, North, South, it doesn't matter. It's a testament to the golf tournament when the best teams want to be there. It's a great golf course and a great layout and Jerry does an incredible job of making the teams feel welcome. So we're excited about being the host to what I think is the best tournament in America.
"When you start bringing 10 teams that are in the top 25, and, really eight that are in the top 12, you've got an incredible field. When you bring the best teams you bring the best players, and it will be showcased by Bill Haas who I think is the best player in college golf, a Walker-Cupper. You're going to have Casey Wittenberg, another Walker-Cupper who's going to be a freshman phenom at Oklahoma State. You've got Matthew Hendrix at Clemson, another Walker Cup team member. And you've got several first team returning All-Americans and several more who will be All-Americans by the time the season's over in this field. You're going to see great golf, individual golf, and great team golf."
Alabama, which finished eighth among this mini-nationals field at last year's JPNI, will be represented by Lars Brovold, who won his first tournament championship last weekend at North Carolina, Clint Provost, Daniel Creel, Austin Hynson and Stewart Whitt.
"We're still inconsistent right now. Lars is playing really well and I'm hoping his win gets him the confidence and trickles down to the other players. We're really a pretty good team. Our confidence level is just not high enough yet. I'm hoping what Lars did will trickle down to the other players and give them the sense of confidence in realizing that they belong with this field. We do. It's just convincing them that we do."