As soon as the fall college golf season became a reality in the SEC, Jay Seawell was thinking about competition.
“We’re going to compete as much as possible,” Seawell told Golfweek in September, shortly after Crimson Tide players had returned to Tuscaloosa but before the conference had announced its three-season schedule (of conference-only events).
“Scorebards, inner-squads, guys teeing it up in events, 54 holes even if it’s only 10 guys on our squad. I do think it’s very important to re-energize the competitive gene in them.”
Consider it energized. Alabama will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Blessings Collegiate Invitational. The Tide went 6 under as a team on Tuesday at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, jumping three spots up the leaderboard.
Leaderboard: Blessings Collegiate Invitational
“We made some putts today. It was great. Any time you play well, you putt well,” Seawell told Golf Channel at dusk after coming off the course as one of the final groups. “This place is so hard and pretty and it really does almost feel like a U.S. Open. You gotta be resilient.”
At Blessings, teams are playing all together in groups of five. Attitudes can go either way in that scenario, as Seawell pointed out. He had a meeting before the tournament to address it.
Alabama demonstrated their cohesion on the 18th green.
First, Davis Shore holed out from a bunker for birdie, his fourth on the back nine to end at 1-under 71. Then Thomas Ponder made a 30-footer for a closing birdie and a 71 of his own. Tyler Lipscomb completed the trifecta by making a 20-foot putt for par for the Tide’s best score, a 3-under 69.
Alabama also counted a 71 from Wilson Furr.
Without mixed-team pairings, Alabama won’t have any kind of look at what their chasers are doing on Wednesday as they try to finish off a team title – what would be the Tide’s first since the Shoal Creek Invitational in April 2019.
“That’s the great thing about golf,” Seawell said. “You don’t play defense anyway.”
Tennessee and Kentucky are right behind Alabama on the leaderboard. Tennessee swung from 8 under on Monday to 7 over on Tuesday and Kentucky slid a spot with a 1-over 289 in the second round – just one shot worse than its opening effort. They are second and third on the leaderboard, respectively, at 1 under and 1 over.
Kentucky’s Alex Goff leads the individual race at 10 under, a number aided significantly by his second-round 65. Goff made six birdies on the front nine (he started on No. 10), including four in a row from Nos. 2-5.
With men’s and women’s teams teeing it up at Blessings, there is also a program trophy to be awarded at the end of the week. Arkansas, the host, leads the race for that title with Alabama landing at No. 7, squarely in the middle of the pack.