Jags' Caldwell gets bid; No. 1 Alabama snubbed
South Alabama senior earns individual berth in NCAA East Regional, while Crimson Tide surprisingly is shipped to the Central Regional
By GARETH CLARY (Press-Register)
It turns out senior Johnny Caldwell still has some college golf yet to play for South Alabama.
Caldwell won the Sun Belt Conference individual championship and was considered to be a candidate for an individual at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals.
On Monday, the native of Ireland received that bid and will compete May 15-17 at the East Regional in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"It's bittersweet," said South Alabama coach Ben Hannan. "We were hoping to get a bid as a team. We were right on the bubble and one of the last teams on the outside looking in. We're very happy for Johnny to make it and represent our team.
"This is another great chance for Johnny to show on the national stage that he is a world-class golfer, and I expect him to play well.
This is a huge honor for Johnny, but I know he wants to play good golf and end his career here at USA on a high note."
Surprisingly missing from the East Regional is top-ranked and Southeastern Conference champion Alabama, with former UMS-Wright standout Joseph Sykora in the starting lineup.
The Crimson Tide was named the No. 1 seed for the Central Regional in Colum bus, Ohio. Georgia, runner-up to Alabama at the SEC tournament, was the tournament's top overall seed and sent to the East.
"I'm a little surprised," said Alabama coach Jay Seawell, whose team won six out of 10 tournaments this season. "I thought we would be the No. 1 seed in the East, but we are the one seed in the Central. That's where the committee put us, so we'll get on a jet and get to Columbus, Ohio, next week."
Southern Cal is the top seed of the West Regional in Bremerton, Washington. The top 10 teams and top two individuals from each regional qualify for the NCAA Championships May 28-31 in West Lafayette, Ind.
UAB, anchored by Zack Sucher of Mobile, was sent to the East Regional as the No. 10 seed, while Auburn is the No. 6 seed in the East.
"I am excited to be back in the NCAAs and look forward to competing against some of the best teams in the country," said UAB coach Alan Kaufman, who is taking his team to the regionals for the sixth time in 10 years.
"If we can play like we did at the Conference USA Championship, then we will have a shot to advance to the nationals."
Caldwell won the Sun Belt medalist honor in record fashion, firing a 13-under-par 205 (67-69-67) to break the mark held by former Jag and current PGA Tour pro Heath Slocum.
"Johnny got picked off of his national ranking and his play throughout the season," Hannan said. "The top 81 teams get in, then the top 18 players not on those teams and I believe he was second or third in this region."
Caldwell is the first Jag to earn an NCAA individual bid since Gareth Maybin in 2003.