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When the Alabama men’s golf team won its first national championship in school history this past June, head coach Jay Seawell knew he helped create a lasting memory that he would hold on to for life. He was at the top of the sport, but he knew he would soon be starting back at the bottom again.
“I will always remember the feeling in the euphoric, in the celebration with those guys back in June, in Atlanta, forever,” Seawell said. “But the next day the sun comes up and it’s another new day, so it’s our job to keep doing our job.”
Seawell, who enters his 12th season as Alabama’s head coach in 2013, knows how difficult it is to accomplish what his team did last season. In the 20 years prior to last season, Seawell coached a combined 13 teams at Augusta State and Alabama to NCAA postseason appearances, finishing in the top 15 seven times, including a runner-up finish in 2012.
Although he called it a “relief” to finally win a national championship a year ago, Seawell said he was never going to feel less of himself as a head coach if he never won one. He wouldn’t let winning one change the way he coaches his team, either.
“Nothing has changed, really,” senior Bobby Wyatt said. “I think he understands this team is very motivated; they have a lot of drive. Winning a national championship is not going to take that away from us.”
After taking the Alabama head coaching job in the summer of 2002, following four seasons with Augusta State, Seawell took little time to establish his mark on the program.
In his first season with the Crimson Tide, Seawell set the standard for years to come at the University, when he helped lead the team to its first NCAA postseason appearance in three years. Since then, the Tide has gone on to win an active school-record of nine straight during a 10-season span.
“What we try to do is train our players to be the best they can be and prepare them for the small things,” Seawell said. “Everybody wants to win; everybody wants to climb that mountain.
“I’m just as motivated as ever to help this team and these guys be the best they can be. We put goals in front of ourselves to accomplish great things, but more importantly, it just starts everyday as the man in the mirror. So we’ll just keep preaching the same thing we preached before we won.”
To compensate for the losses of seniors Lee Knox and Scott Strohmeyer and 2012 National Player of the Year Justin Thomas from last year’s national championship team, Seawell added two top-rated freshmen – Gavin Moynihan from Dublin, Ireland and Robby Shelton from Wilmer, Ala. – this season. Both players are expected to add depth to a roster that returns seven players from last year’s team.
“We feel like we’re adding two elite-type players that match what we’re trying to do,” Seawell said. “They are freshmen, but they’re hungry and they’re excited to go with the guys that are returning.”
Though one of his main goals this season is to win another national championship, senior Cory Whitsett realizes there are no guarantees, and that the team must avoid complacency to make it happen.
“Golf’s one of those sports where it doesn’t really matter what you do, what you’ve done in your past,” Whitsett said. “The thing with golf is that you can’t raise the expectations for yourself. All you can do is focus on each day, get better one day at a time and Coach [Seawell] always does a great job of making sure we’re doing that.”