‘Bama title expectations include golf programs

Titletown continues the trend, as Alabama has added two more titles to what seems like an endless stream of championships for the Crimson Tide.

This time it was the men’s and women’s golf teams capturing their respective SEC tournament championships in the last two weeks. The women’s team, which won their first national title last year, is ranked second nationally going into the NCAA tournament and holds the No. 1 seed in the East Regional (Auburn University Club, May 9-11).

The men, who won their second straight SEC title last week and school-record six tournaments throughout the regular season, are also ranked second nationally entering the NCAA tournament.

Also, men’s coach Jay Seawell won his second straight SEC Coach of the Year award, with star player Cory Whitsett being named SEC Golfer of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Meadow became the first Alabama woman to win the SEC individual golf title, when she blew the field away at Greystone Country Club in Birmingham, Ala. — by nine shots.

Don’t think this happens by accident. With Alabama’s football program claiming three BCS national titles in four years, the golfing programs have responded to the raised expectations on campus. Simply put, in the world of college athletics, titles beget titles.

And Alabama’s wins on the football field are attracting star-quality athletes in sports far removed from the fall gridiron.

“It’s an attitude,” said former Alabama golfer and LPGA member Leslie Spalding. “When you show up in Tuscaloosa, you expect to win national championships. It’s not a dream; it’s an expectation. That permeates through the entire athletic culture.”

True, but culture doesn’t make 15-foot birdie putts. For that you need players, and Alabama has done a magnificent job of recruiting top talent, in no small part because of the facilities built with football championship money. The old Colony Golf Club is one of the best college courses in the nation and the Jerry Pate Center, a practice and team clubhouse named after its benefactor who won the 1976 U.S. Open, is state-of-the-art complex.

Throw in the fact that golfers enjoy the same student-athlete status as A.J. McCarron and T.J. Yeldon and it’s easy to see why Alabama is enjoying so much success.

It also doesn’t hurt that the other coaches have taken some tips from Nick Saban.

“It is time for us to put the SEC Championship behind us and focus on the next shot,” Coach Potter said in a written statement on Tuesday that could have come straight from one of Saban’s news conferences. “For our season to continue we have to play well at regionals, nothing is promised us, so it is important that we go out and play as well as we possibly can.”

The women’s NCAA Tournament Finals will be held at the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, May 21-24. The men’s final will be at the Capital City Club in Atlanta May 28 to June 2.