ATHENS, Ga. (May 19, 2012) -- Alabama's top-seeded men's golf team ran away from the field at the 2012 NCAA Athens Regional on Saturday with a 25-shot victory on the par-71, 7,253-yard University of Georgia Golf Course.
The Crimson Tide carded a 1-under-par round of 283 to post the best round of the day for the third straight day. UA finished at 24-under-par 828 to secure Alabama's 14th trip to the NCAA Championships and the sixth in the last eight years under head coach Jay Seawell. The NCAA Championships get underway on May 29-June 3 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
"It was just a great performance all weekend," Seawell said. "One of your goals is to play in the national championships but you also want to play well getting there, and I'm really proud of how we played. The guys played great every day. They battled, they competed and they just played to their standard. We won the day, each day, and I was very proud of them."
For the second time in as many tournaments, Alabama freshman Justin Thomas overcame teammate Bobby Wyatt in the final round to capture medalist honors. It was a school-record fourth tournament title for Thomas, who also captured the Carpet Capital Collegiate, the Puerto Rico Classic and the SEC Championship.
"We practiced really well, got prepared, and it's really cool to get the win as a team and move onto nationals," Thomas said following the round. "Going 1-2-3 is just a big bonus."
Thomas, a native of Goshen, Ky., shot 1-under par 70 in the final round for a 9-under-par total of 204. Wyatt, a Mobile, Ala., native shot 1-over 72 to finish at 8-under 205. Cory Whitsett gave the Tide a sweep of the top-three spots on the leader board with a 5-under-par 208.
"Our lineup is making each other better every day," Seawell said. "Iron sharpens iron and they are just getting better. They are pulling for each other - they are great teammates - but they are competitors also. These guys are winners, and they want to win, and they know they better play well because someone on their team is going to."
The top five teams in the NCAA Athens Regional earned a berth in the NCAA Championships. Joining the Crimson Tide in California will be East Carolina (+1, 853), North Florida (+6, 858), host Georgia (+12, 864) and Iowa (+14, 866), who made a furious rally on Saturday with a 1-over-par 285 to grab the fifth spot from New Mexico (+15, 867).
Thomas, who had an up-and-down front nine with four birdies and four bogeys, settled in on the back nine and after making bogey on No. 11, made birdie on the par-5 12th hole and found red numbers for the first time on Saturday with a birdie-2 on the 179-yard par-3 16th hole to edge Wyatt.
Wyatt had a very quiet and consistent start to his third round with 13 straight pars before bogeys on the 14th and 16th dropped him behind Thomas. Wyatt birdied the par-5 17th but it wasn't enough, finishing one shot back of Thomas. It was his sixth top-five finish in 10 events this year for Wyatt.
"The wind was up again today, much like yesterday," Seawell said. "But they didn't give us any easy pins and birdies were hard to come by. It was really hard to get any momentum going because there were just a lot of holes that you had to work to make par on."
Senior Hunter Hamrick equaled Thomas for the Tide's low round of the day at 1-under-par 70. He finished tied for 15th at 2-over-par 215. Whitsett, who went out in 2-over 37 on the front nine, made back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes to finish alone in third. Scott Strohmeyer shot 2-over 73 in round three and finished tied for 21st at 4-over-par 217.
Long Beach State's Philip Chian was the top individual on a non-qualifying team to earn the regional's lone individual berth to the NCAA Championships.