The sixth-ranked Alabama men’s golf team dropped a heartbreaker on the final hole of the 2018 Southeastern Conference Men’s Golf championship match, falling to No. 9 Auburn, 3-2, on Sunday morning at the Sea Island Golf Club on the par 70, 7,005-yard Seaside Course layout.

The teams were tied at two points apiece with the final match all square after senior Jonathan Hardee birdied the par 3 17th hole to even the score against Wells Padgett. Hardee nearly aced the hole as his tee shot rolled just past the cup. However, Padgett calmly rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to clinch the championship.

“We battled all week,” Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said. “Our guys were behind against all three opponents this weekend. We did a really good job of flipping those matches the first two times and tried again today. We were in a hole and our guys dug out. Jonathan hit a shot of a lifetime on 17 to take it to 18, but give them credit. Their guy hit a great birdie putt to win.

“It doesn’t feel very good right now. I am disappointed for our players because I know how hard they worked and knew how much an SEC Championship would mean to them. It doesn’t take away from who they are, what they do and how they represented Alabama. As a coach, I am proud, I hurt and feel all the emotions that come with not winning.”

Alabama advanced to Sunday’s championship after it captured a 3-2-0 win over fourth-ranked Vanderbilt on Saturday morning and followed that with a 3-1-1 win over seventh-ranked Florida in the afternoon.

The Tide had a slow start against the Tigers, trailing in four matches at one point. However, the momentum began to shift in Alabama’s favor midway through the front nine.

Freshman Davis Shore was dominant in his match against Ryan Knop, winning 6&5 to give Alabama the first point of the day. Shore won his last two matches in three match play events and finished the championship with a 2-1 record.

Senior Lee Hodges also finished with a 2-1 mark in match play competition following a 2&1 result over Jovan Rebula. It was the second match that finished and gave the Tide a 2-0 lead with three matches remaining.

However, Auburn captured two points as Trace Crowe and Brandon Mancheno each won by a 2&1 score over senior Davis Riley and freshman Wilson Furr. It was the first loss by Riley in match play at the championship, as he finished with a 2-1 record, while Furr fell to 0-2-1 on the weekend.

Following Hardee’s near hole-in-one on the 17th hole, both he and Padgett hit their tee shots in the rough. Hardee, who went 2-1 in match play, hit his second shot from the sand and landed it in front of the green. His third shot ended up just six feet from the hole, setting up a par putt. However, Padgett did not give him the chance, hitting his second shot on the green, setting up the winning putt.

The Crimson Tide will next compete in an NCAA Regional. The regional announcement will take place on Wednesday, May 2, at 5 p.m. CT (6 p.m. ET) on the Golf Channel. Teams will be selected to compete in the six regional sites, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships to be played May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

“We moved the SEC Championship back to its latest date ever so we could get it closer to regionals,” Seawell said. “We used to have three or four weeks off and now we’re only going to have two. We have to get the guys’ schoolwork in order and once we get that done, we’ll go back to work. This tournament taught us an incredible amount and we can learn a lot from it. I still don’t think we have played our best and that’s on me to get us to that point. We still have a lot of golf left to play.”

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