MILTON, Ga. — Showing it’s more than just a football school, Alabama won its first national title in men’s golf with a dominating 4-1 victory over Illinois in match play Sunday.
This championship was especially sweet for a team that lost to Texas in last year’s final.
“It’s been a long 365 days,” said Alabama coach Jay Seawell. “But that just makes it more special. It makes you appreciate it more.”
Bobby Wyatt got the Tide off to a rousing start in the first match, winning the first seven holes on the way to a 6-and-5 blowout of Thomas Detry. Alabama didn’t have to sweat it in the final match, either, as Cory Whitsett went 5-up by the turn and cruised to a 4-and-3 victory over Alex Burge.
The middle three matches were much tighter — each of them all-square at one point coming down the stretch, giving Illinois a glimmer of hope at improbably pulling out its first national title.
But Trey Mullinax, after squandering chances to pull ahead with 3-putts at the 14th and 16th, 2-putted from 60 feet for a par at the 18th for a 1-up victory over Charlie Danielson. The Illinois player missed the green with his approach, chipped up to about 10 feet, but rolled the putt past the right lip of the cup for a bogey.
When Mullinax knocked down his 3-footer, a huge roar went up from the predominantly Alabama crowd that could be heard by the other groups still on the course.
“You could tell Alabama had an edge to them today,” said Illinois head coach Mike Small. “They went through this last year. Going through this once and not winning is a powerful feeling when you group that together and come back this year. You could tell they had their mind made up it was going to get done.”
Small knew his team had to be nearly perfect to beat the Tide.
“I don’t think today there was any fear,” Small said. “I think today there was maybe a little bit of nervousness that we couldn’t get a hold of and anxiousness, maybe. Like I said, Alabama is good. They beat us. We couldn’t make any mistakes against them today and we did.”
Thomas Pieters, the 2012 individual champion, earned the Fighting Illini’s lone point with a 1-up victory over Alabama’s top-ranked player, Justin Thomas.
The Illini have a bright future but will come back next season without Pieters, who is turning pro. He broke down in tears after coming so close to adding a team title to the individual championship he won in 2012.
“I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be in the national championship,” Pieters said. “We thought we could do it. We worked so hard to get to this moment. It’s a shame we didn’t get it done today. But Alabama played really, really well.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.