MILTON, Ga. - The Alabama men's golf team laid claim to the program's first National Championship with a 4-1 victory over Illinois on Sunday in the finals of the 2013 NCAA Golf Championship on the par-70, 7,319-yard Crabapple Course at the Capital City Club.
The Crimson Tide victory was redemption after a heartbreaking loss to Texas in the NCAA Finals a year ago. The clinching holes on Sunday were almost simultaneous on the 15th and 16th. Junior Cory Whitsett halved the par-3 15th hole for a 4 and 3 victory and only seconds later senior Scott Strohmeyer won the difficult par-4 16th hole with par for a 3 and 2 win.
The two wins clinched Alabama's first National Championships as players, coaches, family and fans rushed from all corners of the back nine to celebrate.
"I think (what happened last year) makes it more special," Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said when asked about last year's loss. "It makes you appreciate it a great deal more. It is so hard to even get here. This team has been on a mission, a mission, a mission. That is the leadership of Scott Strohmeyer and all of the guys on this team. It is their championships and we won today because of them."
Whitsett, playing in the last group, jumped out to an early lead with the three middle parings locked in a battle for the three points needed to win the match. He won the second, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth holes. After dropping holes at 10 and 11, Whitsett moved back to 4 up with a par on the 14th. He then clinched the match over Alex Burge on the 15th.
Strohmeyer, from Auburn, battled Illinois' Brian Campbell in another hotly contested match. He fell behind on the 11th hole but quickly got back to all square with a birdie on the par-5 12th. After halving the 13th with a long par putt, Strohmeyer won three straight holes to close out the match, 3 and 2.
"I made a big putt on 12 for birdie to go all square, and coach gave me the read on the putt," Strohmeyer said. "I would've missed it if I hadn't asked him for a read. Seeing the putt go in gave me a lot of confidence. On the next hole, I made a great par putt to halve the hole, and that might have rattled him, but it gave me a lot of confidence and allowed me to settle down. [Campbell] played great. He didn't give me anything; I had to beat him."
Junior Trey Mullinax was the in the second paring and locked in a battle with Charlie Danielson. The back-and-forth match went to the 18th hole all square after six lead changes. Both players found their approach shots to the right of flag, leaving Mullinax a 60-foot putt while Danielson was chipping from off the green. Mullinax lagged to within five feet and sank his par putt for the 1-up win and Alabama's second point.
Junior Bobby Wyatt, paired in the first group, staked the Crimson Tide to an early lead with an amazing front nine. The junior from Mobile, Ala., won the first seven holes and had a 6-up lead at the turn with five birdies. He closed the match out with an improbable chip-in for birdie on the 13th for a 6 and 5 win over Illinois' Thomas Detry.
Justin Thomas was one down through 17 holes when the match was decided. He found himself 1 down most of the day but fought back to all square on the 15th only to slip one back again on the 16th after making bogey.