By Tim Steere

The University of Alabama Men’s Golf team came away with another win on February 7.  The win did not come on the links by way of effective short game play or a stellar putting performance, but rather on paper, in the form of the Ben Hogan Award watch list. 

The Crimson Tide had four players mentioned, tying a record for the most players named on one watch list. The 2010 Oklahoma State Sooners and the 2013 Cal Golden Bears are the only other teams to have as many players listed.  It also marks the seventh consecutive year a Crimson Tide golfer has been featured on the list. The Ben Hogan Award is given annually to the top golfer in Division I, II or III, NJCAA or NAIA.

Trey Mullinax, Robby Shelton, Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt were each named to this years list, setting an early precedent for the 2014. However, this comes as no surprise. All four players shined for the Tide last season, propelling the team to a 2013 NCAA National Championship.

Mullinax, a senior from Birmingham, is the country’s No. 1 ranked player and averages an impressive 69.17 strokes per round. As if being named to the 2014 Ben Hogan Award watch list wasn’t promising enough, Mullinax finished tied for sixth in his first tournament of 2014, the Jones Cup Invitational in Sea Island, GA.

Perhaps even more impressive is Shelton, a true freshman and only the second player in school history to win his first collegiate event. Before his career at Alabama began, Shelton was the No. 1 ranked junior, the 2012 winner of the Junior PGA Championship and member of the United States Junior Ryder Cup team.  He averages 70.42 strokes per round.

Whitsett, a Houston, TX native had a productive 2013 as well, winning three tournaments, placing second in five others and finishing in the top ten in three more. He is the No. 3 ranked amateur in the world.

2014 marks the second year that Wyatt, a senior from Mobile, has been named to the Ben Hogan Award watch list. Averaging 70.4 strokes per round, Wyatt was perhaps the most productive player for the 2013 US Walker Cup team, earning 3.5 points in four match play sessions. 

To understand the significance of these four players, lets take a look at the four players from the 2010 Oklahoma State team and the 2013 Cal team to get a glimpse of the elite company Alabama’s four Hogan Award hopefuls are among.

Out of Oklahoma State’s four players named to the 2010 watch list, three are currently thriving on major tours across the globe. Morgan Hoffman and Kevin Tway have recently joined the PGA Tour and Peter Uihlem is currently on the European tour. All four were former teammates of the young standout Rickie Fowler, the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

The 2013 Cal team was led by Michael Kim, who was the low scoring amateur at the 2013 U.S. Open, finishing tied for 17th  at ten strokes over par.  Max Homa, another Cal player named to the 2013 list, recently made his PGA debut at the Farmers Insurance Open, but missed the cut after finishing seven strokes over par after two rounds. However, Homa is a big hitter and is currently ranked third on tour in diving distance, averaging 308.3 yards per drive.  Michael Weaver, the fourth Cal player named to last years list, finished 64th at the 2013 US Open and managed to earn a bid to the 2013 Master’s by finishing second at the 2012 U.S. Amateur. 

Many former Crimson Tide players are thriving professionally.  Former Alabama standout Justin Thomas, the 2012 SEC Player of the Year, finished tied for tenth at the 2014 Farmer’s Insurance Open, which earned him a cool $125,000.

If history indicates anything, it is that 2014 can be a special year for the Crimson Tide. They’ve landed a highly touted recruit Jonathan Hardee from Greer, S.C. Hardee is a Rolex All-American and chose to attend Alabama over his home state Clemson Tigers. For Hardee, the opportunity to play for coach Jay Seawell was the difference maker when it came time to make a decision.  Hardee’s most recent win was at the 2013 American Junior Golf Association’s Brian Harman Junior Championship where he finished six under par. 

If history tells us anything, it is that 2014 can certainly be a landmark year for the Crimson Tide. Coming off two straight SEC championships and a 2013 National Championship, the Tide certainly have a target on their back. However, behind veteran leadership and a solid amount of quality underclassmen talent, Alabama can certainly repeat as National Champions.

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