**Note: Link no longer available online**
VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. – For a team missing two key players from its national championship team from a year ago, the Alabama men’s golf team hasn’t shown any signs of missing a beat in 2013.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide captured its second straight tournament to start the season Tuesday, finishing with a score of 11-under-par 829 at the 2013 Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate at the Old Overton Country Club. The victory is Alabama’s sixth in the last eight years at the tournament, including its second straight, and its best start to a season since winning its first three events during the 2006-07 season.
“It’s always nice to start off the year good in a positive way,” senior Trey Mullinax said. “I don’t think since I’ve been here we’ve ever started out this well in the tournaments, so it’s always good to get that under your belt.”
Alabama was led by Mullinax (5-under 205, second overall) and freshman Robby Shelton (1-under 209, tied fourth overall), who through two tournaments this season, have stepped up the biggest to pick up the voided production left open by former players Scott Strohmeyer and Justin Thomas this season. Both Mullinax and Shelton also finished in the top five individually in the season opener at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational in September, as well, with Shelton taking home top honors in his first event at Alabama.
“Robby has done a fantastic job,” UA head coach Jay Seawell said. “It’s hard for a freshman to blend in, especially to a team that has already accomplished many things and has great high expectations. And so what he’s done since he’s been here has been phenomenal. It’s been a seamless transition for him.”
Shelton, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 1-ranked junior golfer, credited his early college career success on playing competitive senior golf, prior to attending Alabama.
“I’ve played against some of the best in the world on a national level, so that’s helped me the most – the competition,” Shelton said. “It gave me the confidence to know that I could come in and play with the college players, too.”
Alabama led after all three rounds over the course of the two-day event, ultimately claiming the tournament title by 16 shots over runner-up Texas A&M, which shot 5-over 845. It’s now the second win in a row for the Crimson Tide by a double-digit margin, following the team’s 18-stroke victory at Olympia Fields.
Sophomore Tom Lovelady, who did not compete in the Crimson Tide’s first tournament this season, placed third on the team and seventh overall with a one-over 211 at the JPNI. Seniors Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt tied for eighth overall at 2-over 212 and tied for 23rd at 6-over 216, respectively.
Seawell said his biggest takeaway from the tournament was knowing that his team can still win, without having to be carried by Whitsett and Wyatt, who were first team All-Americans a year ago.
“You usually win because of your great players, and our two great players played average,” he said. “I’m really proud of how Robby [Shelton], Trey Mullinax and Tom Lovelady, truly stepped up and pulled us to victory. And so I think the greatest thing is the perception that we might be a very top-heavy team with Bobby and Cory is not true.”