On Saturday afternoon, the Alabama Crimson Tide was entering match play after some up-and-down, though generally steady, play in its three rounds of stroke play. The team hovered from fifth-to-sixth-to-fourth place in the three prior rounds, before eventually finishing fourth to advance to a dramatic weekend stage.
That one-and-one format was just what the doctor ordered. First, Alabama clawed its way back from behind to take down the No. 4 (and 3-seed) Vanderbilt Commodores, 3-2. And then the entire roster got hot: The next round, Alabama again found itself trailing early, but rebounded and handily dispatched the 5-seed Florida Gators, to set up an Iron Bowl reprise against the No. 9 (2-seed) Auburn Tigers for the SEC Championship on Sunday.
In what is seemingly becoming an Auburn tradition, no matter the sport, the improbable happened on a nail-biter 18th hole:
The teams were tied at two points apiece with the final match all square after senior Jonathan Hardee birdied the par-3 17th hole to even the score against Wells Padgett. Hardee nearly aced the hole as his tee shot rolled just past the cup. However, Padgett calmly rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th to clinch the championship.
Because, of course he did.
Did we mention Auburn’s Wells Padgett is a freshman?
Alabama had to settle for runner-up after five days of battling half a dozen excellent teams and a treacherous Seaside course.
Said ‘Bama coach Jay Seawell:
It doesn’t feel very good right now. I am disappointed for our players because I know how hard they worked and knew how much an SEC Championship would mean to them. It doesn’t take away from who they are, what they do and how they represented Alabama. As a coach, I am proud, I hurt and feel all the emotions that come with not winning.
That ambivalence, I think, is what resonates with most of us.
Still, the Tide had a great weekend of play, improving with nearly each day. Alabama should be in great shape for the NCAA Championships which begin on May 14th. The Tide finds out its regional fate on May 2nd at 5 p.m. Central on the Golf Channel.
Congratulations again to Alabama on battling back for runner-up and in placing two individuals in the Top 10.
But, sometimes Auburn things just happen.