The University of Alabama women’s golf team didn’t exactly slip meekly into the NCAA Championships, dominating the field at last week’s Tallahassee Regional in record-setting fashion with a team score of 33-under par over three days.
So UA head coach Mic Potter knows when his team tees off in NCAA play at Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Friday morning, the Crimson Tide will not be a secret — a position Alabama has grown accustomed to occupying.
“To be honest, we have been one of favorites for the last three years,” Potter said earlier this week as his team earned the No. 1 spot on Golfstat’s national rankings. “If you’re going to be a top program, you have to get used to that. We’ve done a pretty good job of filtering it out and we're saying ‘let’s just play as well as we can.’ It’s not something that we really control.”
Potter pointed out Alabama is one of several favorites in the event, which features 24 teams in three days of stroke play. The field is cut to 15 teams after Sunday with the top eight teams following Monday’s fourth round qualifying for match play, which begins on Tuesday.
“You also have to put Arkansas and Stanford up there, as well as UCLA, USC and Duke. All of those are outstanding teams.”
Alabama lost in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament last month falling to Arkansas in match play, a new format as the SEC seeks to better prepare itself for NCAA play.
“We has beaten Vanderbilt earlier in the day and it was hard to come back and play an emotional match with Arkansas, who we have sort of been battling all year,” Potter said. “It was difficult but now I’m glad we have done it because the experience will help us.”
If there was any lingering after-effect, Alabama did not show it in Tallahassee.
“We played well but we can still improve,” Potter said. “I thought that there were a couple of rounds where Lauren (Stephenson) could have shot a 60. I walked around with Cheyenne (Knight) most of the second day and if everything had gone perfectly, she could have shot a 59. But it was a course where it was difficult to make putts.
“It was a golf course that I was a little worried. With this many elite players, long and tight — short but such a good job with hole location. On the par 5’s, the players could reach the greens but it had to be in a particular portion of the green, so accuracy was important in those situations.”
Potter said the Oklahoma State course would be “a different test.
“Fairways there are generous but penal if you miss them” Potter said. “We need to make sure when we are picking targets and the wind will be a factor.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports or 205-722-0225.