Tide golf team remains No. 1

Ask men’s golf coach Jay Seawell to describe his defending national champions, and he’ll start with one word.

“Focused, with an understanding of what’s ahead of them and what they can do now to put themselves in good positions later,” Seawell said. “They’re focused, but they also understand the big picture.”

The big picture for the nation’s current No. 1 men’s golf team is to get back to SEC and national championship play this spring. Wins in the Crimson Tide’s first two fall tournaments mean the team has momentum on its side as it heads to Windermere, Fla., for its third event of the fall season.

The Isleworth Invitational, a three-day tournament starting Sunday at the Collegiate Isleworth Country Club, will be the Crimson Tide’s fifth consecutive trip there. Senior Cory Whitsett led Alabama to victory as a freshman in 2010 with his fifth-place performance. Whitsett will be joined this year by seniors Bobby Wyatt and Trey Mullinax, sophomore Tom Lovelady and freshman Robby Shelton, who won his first collegiate tournament in September.

The last freshman to do that for Alabama was Justin Thomas, who finished with the top individual score for the Crimson Tide both times in his career at the Isleworth Invitational. Even with Thomas turning pro in early September, Seawell said the team hasn’t missed a beat, especially with the emergence of Mullinax.

“Trey has worked very hard,” Seawell said. “He has a very teachable spirit. I know personally it’s fun as a coach to see a mind catch up with talent, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten with Trey.”

Mullinax, a Birmingham native, is second on the team with a 69.5 strokes-per-round average. Teammate Bobby Wyatt said he sees the same things in Mullinax as Seawell.

“He’s a hard worker, always has been,” Wyatt said.

This year, the Isleworth Invitational will feature some familiar faces for the Crimson Tide as well as three top-10 teams and three conference opponents. The winners from last year, No. 5 California Golden Bears, will bring a team, as well as No. 3 Texas and No. 9 New Mexico.

As the fall season draws to a close, Seawell continue to shuffle personnel and decide on which five golfers will best suit the demanding spring schedule.

“The most important thing is preparation in the fall,” Seawell said. “Winning is nice and always the goal, but good preparation gives you confidence going into the spring.”

After the Isleworth Invitational, the Crimson Tide will have one full week of practice before the last tournament of the fall season, the Gifford Collegiate Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Calif., on Nov. 4.