Men’s golf recruits new coach to team

Kevin Connell

There are five head coaches currently employed by The University of Alabama that have led their programs to a national championship, but there is only one non-head coach at Alabama that’s done the same at another school.

One year after winning its first national championship in program history, the No. 1 Alabama men’s golf team named Mike McGraw, the head coach of the 2006 national championship-winning Oklahoma State team, as the team’s assistant coach this past offseason.

Through the team’s four events of the fall season, the Crimson Tide has won all four events, leading after all nine rounds played. Among the four victories, three of them were won by 12 shots or more.

Much of that success can be credited to McGraw.

“I think he’s been a big influence and a great addition,” head coach Jay Seawell said. “You know Mike is one of the best coaches in the country. … He was a perfect fit for this team and has brought a great deal to us and helped us in our early success this year.”

McGraw, who was born and raised in Oklahoma as a fan of Oklahoma State athletics, spent the last 16 years as a coach at the university, including the past eight as the head men’s golf coach, before being relieved of his duties as coach in late June.

Despite seven NCAA Championship appearances with five top-five finishes, including the national title in 2006, McGraw was gracious after the decision was made.

“I always wanted to play there, and didn’t get that opportunity,” McGraw said. “But I got there as a coach one day, so that was always a dream, sort of my New York Yankees job, the job I thought I really wanted, and I did. I had that for a long time. It was a great, great experience.

“So leaving that job, that was tough. That wasn’t easy at all. But as I told a lot of people up there, that’s adversity, but not true adversity. It was kind of just a bump in the road.”

It wasn’t long after – about 40 minutes after the news hit the golf websites – that Seawell called McGraw to offer him the assistant coach position at Alabama after he had learned earlier in the week that then-assistant, Rob Bradley, would be taking the head coaching job at Purdue.

McGraw accepted immediately, only needing the approval from his wife Pam, who, after visiting Tuscaloosa a week later with McGraw, gave her blessing.

It also helped that McGraw and Seawell have had a good working relationship for several years now.

“We would see each other all the time on the road, especially at competitions and recruiting, and we actually recruited some of the same players,” Seawell said. “We’re also part of an organization called College Golf Fellowship, and so our friendship is outside of just golf also. … Through the years and the run-intos, and the things that bring our journey together, we just created a great friendship.”

One of those same players that both coaches recruited was senior Cory Whitsett, who knew what McGraw was all about as a coach.

“He obviously has a ton of experience with where he’s been before,” Whitsett said. “He’s watched a lot of good players get through college and progress, and improve the way they need to, so they can be successful at a professional level.”

His expertise has helped senior Trey Mullinax, a player he has walked with for nearly every shot he’s taken in tournaments this fall.

Mullinax leads the team with a 69.17-stroke average this fall and has four top-10 finishes, including three top-five finishes and one individual win. He has also emerged as the No. 1 men’s collegiate player this fall, according to Golfweek.

“Trey is the No. 1-ranked player in the country, and so if you want an indicator of what Coach McGraw has meant to the program that, would be it right there,” Seawell said.

So far, McGraw’s adjustment with Alabama has gone as well as the team’s season.

“I couldn’t have imagined a transition being much more enjoyable or easier,” McGraw said. “I’ve just had a great time.”