High expectations barely begin to describe the standard Alabama women’s golf coach Mic Potter has for his team, even after coming off of a national championship last year.
“On Sunday, at Arizona State this past week, that’s kind of what I have in mind when I watch this team play in terms of ballstriking, short game and scoring. That’s what we’re capable of,” Potter said on the 11-under par Sunday the team put together to take away the PING/ASU Invitational.
The 11-under par performance was the second-lowest team score in school history and was enough to overcome a four-stroke deficit going into the final day of the tournament.
Now as the team moves on to the SEC Championship Tournament at Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., Friday through Sunday, Potter’s focus is on recreating that performance and letting the winning take care of itself.
“In terms of winning and losing, I try to keep those expectations off of them,” Potter said. “I think it’s about playing to our standard everyday. We’ve got a great team, we’ve got a lot of talented players: but if they don’t play well, it doesn’t matter. The focus has to be on us playing well.”
A large part of Alabama’s surge to find its stride near the end of the season came from frehsman Emma Talley, who won her first collegiate tournament as an individual in the PING/ASU Invitational with a 9-under par tournament.
Hannah Collier after winning medalist honors at the PING/ASU Invitational. (Photo courtesy of UA Athletics)
“Emma’s a girl that someone never did in Junior Golf Association history and that’s win four consecutive tournaments,” Potter said. “That’s neither boy or girl, and we’re talking about some of the greatest players to ever come out of the United States in a long time.”
Talley’s rise to the top was equally predictable to those that were around her in her youth, including fellow Kentucky native Justin Thomas, a sophomore on the Alabama men’s golf team.
“I’m surprised it took her this long, honestly,” Thomas said. “She dominated junior golf and amateur golf, so I’m just happy to have her here, someone else from Kentucky with me.
“I’ve known her for a long time. Somehow she always claims I’m her little brother when I’m older than her, but I always called her my little sister. She’s a really good friend of mine, her and her family. I knew right away where she was going, she was going to come here, and I’m glad to see her doing well.”
When Talley heard Thomas’ remarks, she was quick to cast them off.
“I know Justin thought that because he won so many times as a freshman,” Talley said. “I struggled in the fall, but Coach worked really hard with me and everything finally came together.”
But as the postseason comes, Potter recognizes Talley is more than the average freshman.
“If you can make the cut at the U.S. Open, you can play college golf,” he said. “We all knew, it was just a matter of time before she started winning tournaments.”
Home course advantage
Now that two new additions to the Southeastern Conference have it expanding over 11 states.
For the SEC Tournament, Alabama does not have that worry, as Greystone is in nearby Birmingham, Ala.
“Any time you can not have to travel very far, it’s an advantage,” Potter said. “For us, this is a home tournament. The next closest place we play is Athens (Ga.), I think, so this is a chance for our fans to come out and support us.”
It’s also got a home flavor to it, as junior Hannah Collier claims it as her home course as a Birmingham native. Since Collier’s family holds a membership at Greystone, she is not restricted from playing there during the year like other SEC golfers are.
“I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the SEC that gets to play there throughout the past year because we’re members out there,” Collier said. Whenever I get a free weekend or a day off, I like to go down there and play.
“It’s pretty awesome. There are so many great courses around the Southeast, and I got pretty lucky that Greystone ended up being the choice. It’s exciting.”
Excitement will soon be taken over by the challenge of Greystone.
“I don’t think it’s very narrow, but if they get the greens going, it can be pretty tricky,” Collier said. “I think it will be a true test to all of the golfers.”
Potter added, “The speed of the greens, you have to be on your toes, you have to be careful. We feel more comfortable there than any other team and Hannah feels more comfortable there than any individual player.”
Potter hopes Collier’s comfort converts to low scores for the Tide in the SEC Championship Tournament.
She’s got to have a comfort level on every tee, on every approach shot to every green her feel for the greens,” Potter said. “The question is, do you feel too much pressure playing on your home course, and my guess would be no, because Hannah doesn’t seem to feel too much pressure any time.”