The Crimson Tide, the No. 3 seed in the tournament and ranked No. 2 in the country, took care of unfinished business at the Capital City Club-Crabapple Course with a convincing 4-1 victory over Illinois to claim the program’s first national golf championship.
Alabama was in the NCAA finals a year ago at Pacific Palisades, Calif., and was a few shots away from beating Texas, but lost the title match 3-2 to the Longhorns.
“I think we appreciate it more (this year) and that’s what makes these guys special,” Seawell said. “They didn’t give in. They never allowed last year to get in their thoughts, other than to try and get it again.”
Alabama performed just as well as it did Saturday from its 4-1 win over Georgia Tech — if not better — by taking advantage of nearly every opportunity. For Illinois, the miscues snuck in after a near-perfect showing in their match play victory over Texas in the quarterfinals, and top-seeded California in the semis.
Bobby Wyatt needed only 13 holes to win 6 and 5 over Illinois’ Thomas Detry. Trey Mullinax beat Charlie Danielson 1-up.
Scott Strohmeyer won 3 and 2 over Brian Campbell and Cory Whitsett won 4 and 3 over Alex Burge.
Thomas Pieters was Illinois’ only winner. He held his 1-up lead over Justin Thomas on the last two holes.
“We didn’t play as well, we didn’t drive as well, we didn’t putt it as well,” Illinois coach Mark Small said. “When we’re not sharp, they’re going to trounce on you and make you pay.”
Wyatt made an early statement for Alabama by going 7-up in the first seven holes against Detry. Wyatt made four straight birdies on holes 2 through 5 to break the match open.
Detry tried to get back into it with wins on Nos. 9 and 11, but Wyatt never lost control and closed the on the par-3 13th hole when he chipped in for birdie.
“Bobby on the driving range looked like somebody, I don’t think Tiger Woods would have wanted him (Sunday),” Seawell said. “My assistant coach (Rob Bradley) came up to me and said ‘I wouldn’t want to play him (Sunday).’ I said he did look kind of focused and darned if he didn’t. It was a great, great start for us.”
Mullinax was all-square against Danielson after 17 holes, but Mullinax won the hole by two-putting from 60 feet after Danielson missed the green to the right and had to settle for bogey.
Mullinax’s final two putts Sunday are ones he said he’ll always remember.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit with my putter for the last couple of days. On 18, it meant so much to me because I finally two-putted a whole from long distance. It was awesome, and to have everyone there on 18 and you finish the hole to win, it was an awesome feeling. Words can’t even describe.”
Whitsett was 1-up on Burge after the fifth hole before winning the next four holes – with a par and three birdies — to go 5-up at the turn. Burge never recovered and Whitsett ended up clinching it for Alabama when they halved No. 15.
Pieters, the 2012 NCAA individual champion was the only member of the Fighting Illini to win. After Pieters and Thomas split the first two holes, Pieters took a 1-up lead and held the advantage until the 15th when Thomas tied the match. Pieters won the next hole with a par and closed Thomas out on 18. Pieters said winning his final match as a member of the Illinois golf team was nice, but the overall outcome wasn’t what he wanted.
“It’s not fun obviously,” Pieters said. “We all played really hard. I won today, so that was good. I played really good today. Alabama played really well today, so hats off to them.”
Strohmeyer’s match was all square through the first 13 holes before winning the next three holes to seal not only his match, but the national championship. A shot that he said he will remember for a long time came on the long 220-yard par-3 15th. In the past, Strohmeyer said long par 3s had been his nemesis. But this time, his tee shot landed 2 feet from the hole to set up an easy birdie.
“It was probably the best golf shot I hit in my life,” Strohmeyer said. “It was a shot I struggled with my whole career, and to be able to pull it off and execute it at that moment was awesome.”