Now on a three-tournament win streak and won four of the last five, Alabama just hopes it has not reached that point too early before the postseason.
“I hope not,” Alabama men’s golf coach Jay Seawell said. “We want to be good everyday.
“I’m proud of the guys. We haven’t settled, we haven’t taken a day off, I’m proud of how we committed. They’re a very hungry team.”
Back to old form
Of the three-straight team tournament wins, two of them were also claimed by an individual member of the Tide, both going to Cory Whitsett. Whitsett, a junior from Houston, Texas, is not surprising anyone with his recent success, but is just getting close to realizing his potential.
“He came here as a great player,” Seawell said. “He had a little bit of a setback before he came here, he had a stress fracture in his back and didn’t play golf for about eight months before he came to school. It was just a process to get him fully back and confident.
“Just like Tiger on TV, it’s taken a little time to get him what we call ‘back.’”
Whitsett’s improvement was no surprise to him, either.
“No, I think it’s just the level of improvement I’ve wanted to see since I’ve come to Alabama,” Whitsett said. “Coach Seawell and the staff understand what I need to do to play my best golf, and I think my results this semester have shown that.”
How he started his comeback may be unorthodox, however. Whitsett did not take on a new practice technique or even make a drastic swing change: he just did what he came to college to do.
“I tried to play more,” Whitsett. “Coach Bradley loves playing and all the guys love playing, so any opportunity I get I try to get out on the golf course.
“When I’ve been practicing, I’ve been working on shaping shots and really getting rid of any technical thought.”
His teammates are enjoying just watching him work his way around the links.
“He’s just Cory, he’s just a great player,” sophomore Justin Thomas said. “I don’t even consider him on-fire, he’s just being him. I think he’s finally in the right place mentally.”
Seawell added, “I truly believe he is as good as he’s ever been and it’s fun to watch.”
Staying away from sophomore slump
Few things impressed Seawell more than Justin Thomas as a freshman, taking National Player of the Year honors after winning the SEC Individual Championship.
Even more impressive, how Thomas has handled that load going into this season.
“That’s a big burden, to have to be the Player of the Year and carry it into next year,” Seawell said. “I’m really proud of how he’s handled that: won a couple of times already, on par to be a All-American.
“Maybe hasn’t made the putts that he made last year consistently like he did last year, but still doing a great job on- and off-the-course for us.”Thomas said, despite the praise from his head coach, his season has not been as good as he had hoped it would be after his freshman campiagn. But now is the time to turn things around.
“We’re getting down to that crunch time where we’re trying to make a great year out of a good year,” Thomas said.
“It truly decides the champion”
At all levels of golf, the best players do not always win. Often, as it never does in football or basketball, the playing field favors certain teams or competitors.
The home of the SEC Tournament, Seaside Golf Course in Seaside, Ga., might be immune from this: it will be equally difficult for all teams.
“Sea Island is a great golf course,” Seawell said. “All 10 years I’ve been there, the best team has won. It truly decides the champion. The team that’s the most confident usually wins.”
The weather, even more out of the players’ control, may have more affect than the course itself.
“If the weather is good and it’s not breezy, it’s a very gettable golf course,” Whitsett said. “But it’s all at the mercy of the wind. If the wins blows, it’s very difficult.”