Men’s team continues spring schedule in Vegas

The No. 2 Alabama men’s golf team will head to Las Vegas, Nev., this weekend to compete in the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, the team’s second contest of the spring. The tournament, held at the Southern Highlands Golf Club, will run Friday to Sunday. It will be Alabama’s second appearance in the tournament.

Though head coach Jay Seawell said he anticipates the team improving from last year’s ninth-place finish, he acknowledged the stiff competition his squad will face.

“Eight of the top-10 teams in the country will be there competing, and it’ll be a good indicator of how successful we can be,” Seawell said. “It’s why you go there. We’ll have to be really sharp.”

Sophomore Justin Thomas, who as a freshman won the 2012 Haskins award given to the nation’s top golfer, agreed with Seawell.

“This is probably our biggest tournament of the year besides the SEC and NCAA Championships,” Thomas said.

In addition to Thomas, the starting lineup will include senior Scott Strohmeyer and juniors Trey Mullinax, Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt. Fresh off its third straight victory at the Puerto Rico Classic in February, the Tide will look to continue its recent success.

The invite-only tournament pits Alabama against 14 other Division I universities, including Southeastern Conference foes Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M. Also competing in Las Vegas are the UNLV Rebels, who won the tournament last year, and the defending national champion Texas Longhorns.

Among the crowded field, the team has its sights set on the only squad between it and the No. 1 spot: California.

“Cal’s done amazing things this year, and it’s no wonder they’re number one,” Wyatt said. “They’re the team to beat this year, without a doubt.”

The Crimson Tide boasts numerous achievements of its own this season, finishing 10th or better in every tournament. In addition to the Puerto Rico Classic, where the team shot a season-best 33 under par, the Tide also came out on top at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate tournament in October. Thomas finished with that event’s top overall individual score.

Wyatt said the team is currently feeling a boost of confidence, but preparations for the Collegiate Masters haven’t changed.

“It’s been most of the same, the preparation’s still going all right,” Thomas said. “Coach has got us pushing the greens a little faster, that’s maybe the only thing.”

Seawell is also mindful of the experience his players bring to this weekend’s competition and the recent hot streak of one golfer in particular.

“Cory [Whitsett] has been playing very nice this spring,” Seawell said. “He’s shown good form so far, and we hope he’ll be a huge asset down the stretch.”

All of the golfers will be primed and ready to push each other this weekend, something that Wyatt said has always been the case.

“There’s a lot of experience in this group,” he said. “We’re all good friends, and we all regularly push each other to be the best we can be.”

Next weekend, the Tide will travel to Georgia to compete in the Schenkel Invitational.

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