Bobby Wyatt, Cory Whitsett and Trey Mullinax came to The University of Alabama in 2010. Justin Thomas and Tom Lovelady arrived in 2011. Dru Love, William Sellers and Robby Prater showed up in 2012.
Since the hiring of Alabama head coach Jay Seawell in 2002, the men’s golf team has annually recruited some of the top prospects in the state and, in some cases, the nation. For many of these players they’ve backed their rankings up: the Crimson Tide has made an NCAA postseason appearance in 10 out of the last 11 years.
Though Seawell’s track record at Alabama is impressive (he helped lead the school to its first national championship last season), he claims there is no secret behind his success when it comes to recruiting. In fact, he keeps it relatively simple when looking at future prospects.
“Our philosophy has always been to try to get the best player in our state of Alabama, and then bleed out,” Seawell said. “We’ve been very, very fortunate that the best player in our state has been one of the best players in the country [in recent years].”
Two examples of that would be Wyatt and freshman Robby Shelton, who in addition to being ranked as the No. 1 players in the state of Alabama for the class of 2010 and 2013, respectively, were ranked as the top-ranked player in the nation in those years, as well.
Wyatt, a senior, has already proved his worth, helping lead Alabama to an NCAA runner-up finish in 2012 as a second-team All-American and to a national championship victory as a first-team All-American just a year ago. Shelton, though less experienced, has already made an impact, too. The freshman tied for the individual title with an even-par 210 at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational from Sept. 13-15 in the team’s lone tournament so far this season. (The Crimson Tide also took home team honors at the event, winning by 18 shots.)
“I’ve known Robby for a while,” Lovelady, a sophomore, said. “Always been one of the better players in all the tournaments. He’s been a good player as long as I can remember. I’m not surprised with him winning [that tournament].”
While Shelton shared individual honors at his first tournament, he wasn’t the only Crimson Tide freshman to make this year’s class look as some of those in years past. Gavin Moynihan, the 2012 Irish Amateur champion, finished tied for 39th at 13-over 223, a respectable finish in a field that of 75 that included players from several of the top golf schools in the nation. Shelton and Moynihan were the two players added to the Alabama roster this season.
To find future talented freshmen, Seawell said he spends a “great deal” over the summer, watching targeted recruits at tournaments both in Alabama and on a national-scale to ultimately find the players he wants.
“The biggest thing is to try to put together a list of players that we believe we can get in each class,” Seawell said. “We might only have four or five [players] from each class that we’re looking at, but we’re looking at three or four classes, so we might be watching 10 or 12 guys every year.”
Not all of Seawell’s players come straight off his “list,” though. Moynihan, the first foreign-born player Seawell has recruited during his tenure at Alabama, was brought to his attention through word of mouth. Others, like Mullinax, nearly went unnoticed by recruiters.
“One of my dad’s friends told me about the Alabama golf camp, so I went,” Mullinax, a senior and an honorable mention All-American last season, said. “I was on Coach Seawell’s dad’s team for some kind of event. His dad then told Coach Seawell about me, so then I started getting recruited by him.”
For all his recruiting triumphs, though, Seawell credits the University itself.
“Personally to me as a recruiter, it really truly is about The University of Alabama,” Seawell said. “Our guys have bought into that on what the University can do for them post-graduation, and then also what they can do with their golf while they’re here. And so I think that’s why we’ve been successful.”
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