I’ve been away for a week, but while I was, the University of Alabama went and added another National Championship.
And unlike our little brothers in Lee County, this one wasn’t contrived or manufactured from opinion and fantasy.
The Alabama men’s golf team won its second consecutive NCAA Championship last Wednesday, beating Oklahoma State 4-1 in match play on the par-70, 6,941-yard Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Alabama is just the second team to win back-to-back National Championships in men’s golf in the last 30 years, joining Augusta State in 2010-11.
Senior Bobby Wyatt picked up Alabama’s first win, beating Talor Gooch 3 and 2 while freshman Robby Shelton put the Crimson Tide up 2-0 by winning at No. 2 up 1 against Zachary Olsen. Oklahoma State’s Wyndham Clark picked up a point for the Cowboy’s at No. 3, defeating sophomore Tom Lovelady 3 and 1.
At that point, it came down to seniors Trey Mullinax and Cory Whitsett. A win by either would push Alabama over the top. Leading his match from the fourth hole on, Mullinax closed out OSU’s Ian Davis 2 and 1 to clinch the title. Whitsett then beat Jordan Niebrugge 2 and 1 to give the Tide a final tally of 4-1, matching its score from last year’s national championship match against Illinois.
Mullinax, a senior from Birmingham, clinched the title with a 20-foot eagle putt. He hit his drive on 17 in the middle of the fairway and then left his approach on the left fringe above the hole.
“Hitting that putt on 17 is something that I think you always dream about,” Mullinax said. “You’ve got a putt to win the national championship, and to have it go in, and to share that with Coach Seawell, who’s mentored me for four years now and has done so much for me in my golf career that I can’t tell him thank you enough. He means the world to me, and to have him by my side and my teammates today was just really special.”
Shelton, a freshman from Wilmer, AL, may have been the key to Alabama’s win. Going down 2 down with a bogey on the 11th hole, Shelton finished strong with nine birdies in his final 13 holes, six birdies in his last seven holes and three straight on 16, 17 and 18 to close out the win. Shelton won the 13th to get back to 1 down, the 14th to square the match, the 16th to go 1 up and the 17th for a 2-up lead.
After hitting his tee shot on the 18th in the first cut of rough on the left side of the fairway, OSU’s Olsen hit his approach to seven feet. Shelton followed with a wedge about 15 feet past the hole. The freshman then drained a 15-foot putt, walking it in the last seven feet, to clinch the match.
“I never thought I could have as much faith in a freshman as I had in Robby Shelton this week,” Whitsett said. “He got off to adverse starts for him every match, and not once did I look at it and panic. It was like, well, we’re going to win that one. It didn’t matter how many he was down – -it’s amazing.” Wyatt closed out Gooch on the 16th when the Cowboys’ senior three putted from inside five feet. Whitsett was in the fairway on 17th with a 2 up lead with Mullinax sank the putt and ended the match.
Alabama’s senior class of Mullinax, Whitsett and Wyatt finished their college careers with two NCAA Championships, three SEC titles, three NCAA Regional Championships and a mind-boggling 27 tournament victories in their four years at the Capstone. They won a school record nine times in 2013-14 and set an NCAA record with an 11-tournament winning streak from the spring of 2013 to the spring of 2014. The Tide won 22 of its 32 tournaments since the start of the 2012 spring schedule.
No word on whether or not the men’s golf team planned to spray paint their foot steps to the real championship on the Prairie Dunes Country Club turf.
(Report and photo courtesy of RollTide.com)