NCAA Championship Bound: Alabama Finishes in Fourth at NCAA Regionals to Advance to the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship
Senior Jonathan Hardee and freshman Wilson Furr finished among the top five individuals to lead seventh-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide men’s golf team to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Stockton Regional on Wednesday, securing a spot in next week’s NCAA National Championship. Alabama closed play with a three-day, 54-hole total of 15-under par 849 (282-280-287) to seal its 20th appearance at nationals and 11th in 16 seasons under head coach Jay Seawell.
“Making the national championship is a big deal,” UA head coach Jay Seawell said. “The guys were good throughout the week and it was a different guy each day. I am really proud of how they battled, especially on the back nine again today under the highest pressure you can have. You can’t practice or prepare for that type of pressure when you are trying to qualify. I am proud of how they responded. We are looking forward to getting back home then heading to Stillwater (site of this year’s national championship) for a chance to do something special.”
Alabama, the regional’s No. 2 seed, entered the event boasting two of the top-20 golfers in the nation – No. 12 Lee Hodges and No. 20 Davis Riley. However, it was freshman Wilson Furr and senior Jonathan Hardee who led the charge for the Tide throughout the week.
Furr led all individuals in the field with 16 total birdies on his way to finishing tied for third overall with a 9-under par 207. It was his best result and tournament total this season, while also marking the third time in as many outings he has finished an event in the top 10. The highlight for the Jackson, Miss., came during the second round when he finished with an 8-under 64, which tied for the fourth-lowest round in the school’s record books and set an Alabama record for an NCAA competition.
Hardee was equally as impressive throughout the week, as he tied for fifth overall with a 54-hole total of 8-under par 208 – all season-best marks. The Greer, S.C., native closed the regional with a season-best round of 5-under 67 after carding rounds of 68 and 73 on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. It was his third top-10 result and second top-five finish of the season.
“I thought Jonathan was fabulous today,” Seawell said. “I am proud of how confident he played throughout the tournament. Wilson was a star. He got off to a slow start going two-over par through the first five holes, so I challenged him on the sixth-hole tee box. I told him we needed him to turn his play around and we went four-under par from there. I was really happy with the way he responded.”
Riley tied for 37th with a 1-over 217 (72-70-75), while freshman Davis Shore finished tied for 43rd after carding a 218 (69-74-75) on the par 72, 7,239-yard Reserve at Spanos Park layout. Hodges rounded out the Tide in 61st position with a 223 (75-73-75).
“This was a total team effort and I think that will help us next week,” Seawell said. “We are going to need all five guys to perform if we want to contend for a national championship. We’ve proved we are more than a two-man team. Both Davis Riley and Lee Hodges have been terrific all year and both are first-team All-SEC players, but our team is much deeper than that. That bodes well for us next week.”
Kansas, which entered the event ranked 43rd in the nation, won the regional with a 20-under par 844, finishing one stroke ahead of No. 18 Stanford (845). Iowa State was third with an 847, finishing two strokes ahead of the Tide, while No. 30 Oregon was the fifth qualifying team from the regional with an 852. LSU, ranked No. 6 and the regional’s top seed, finished sixth with an 857.
Thirty teams, five from each of the six regional sites, will now converge at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., for the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship, which will be played May 25-30.