Men’s golf begins season at Puerto Rico Classic


CW / Hannah Saad

McLean Albritton, Contributing Writer

Alabama men’s golf teed off for the start of its spring season on Sunday at the Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. This is the 16th time the team has begun the spring in Puerto Rico, and this year’s field includes No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Georgia Tech, No. 18 Georgia, No. 23 Clemson and No. 27 Tennessee.

Alabama has finished 13th, fifth and tied for 11th in Puerto Rico over the last three years.

“It’s the first competition of the year, but that’s kinda how we like to do it: We like to go against the best, and after that, you can get an idea of where you are and what you need to work on,” coach Jay Seawell said.

The Crimson Tide is starting a young lineup, including junior Wilson Furr, sophomore Frankie Capan, freshman Thomas Ponder, freshman Canon Claycomb and senior Jake DeZoort

Ponder started four of the team’s five tournaments in the fall, and his 72.83 scoring average led the team. He is also the only Alabama player ranked in the top 250 of Golfstat’s rankings at No. 138, and his final-round 66 at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational was the team’s lowest individual score in the fall by three strokes.

“Thomas is the happiest kid in the world, so there’s not much coaching to do there,” Furr said. “Every team wants to have a guy like Thomas.”

Claycomb, a Bowling Green, Kentucky, native, joined the team in January and will make his debut in Puerto Rico after being committed to Alabama for three years. 

“I think we’re all really excited for him to be in the lineup,” Furr said. “He’s a really good player, a really good dude, so we’re all excited to see him get his first tee shot for Alabama.” 

Seawell added that he expects Claycomb, formerly the top-ranked junior golfer in the country, to be a great asset for the Crimson Tide this spring. 

“He’s a player we’ve always identified as someone who is a next-level player and could help us tremendously,” Seawell said. “He’s got a lot of talent.”

Claycomb isn’t the only new addition to the Crimson Tide, as University of Virginia sophomore David Morgan transferred in over the winter break. He takes the spot vacated by sophomore Prescott Butler, who transferred to SMU. The Golf Channel first reported both moves.

Furr, playing the No. 1 spot in Puerto Rico, said he is feeling confident in his game going into the tournament. After recording six top-20 finishes last season, he had just one in the fall, and his scoring average rose from 72.12 last year to 72.89 this fall.

“I felt like my attitude was the biggest weakness in my game going into the fall semester, so I’ve really made it a point of focus,” Furr said. “The biggest thing is just understanding that bad stuff is going to happen on the golf course and learning not to give it any of my energy.” 

On Sunday in Puerto Rico, Furr and Ponder led the team with 2-under par 70 to tie for seventh in the 74-player field. Ponder double-bogeyed his second hole of the day but was 4-under on his final 16 holes. His six birdies tied for the most in the field.

Claycomb was one shot behind them, shooting a 1-under par 71 in his collegiate debut.

The four lowest individual scores out of the starting five are added together to compute the team score. Capan’s 2-over par 74 gave the Crimson Tide a 3-under par 285, which tied for third out of 15 teams and trailed only the No. 2 and 3 teams in the country. The second and third rounds in Puerto Rico are scheduled to take place on Monday and Tuesday.

Notable absences for Alabama include freshman Simms Abney, who has started four of five tournaments this season, and junior Davis Shore, who has started three. Shore missed most of last spring with a hip/back injury that he continued to recover from at the start of this season. 

After suffering a setback in his recovery after the end of the fall season, he has yet to be cleared to return to competition. The team hopes to have him back by its next tournament on March 1-3.

“When we get everyone healthy and ready to go, our job is to try to find a way to peak at the right time,” Seawell said. “And I think we’re good enough to compete for an SEC and a national title when we do that.”