By (James Ogletree)

Alabama golfer Jonathan Hardee recorded a career best runner-up finish just under a year ago. Now he’s preparing for his first competitive golf tournament in over nine months.

Hardee, a junior who played in 11 of Alabama’s 12 golf tournaments last year, missed the entire fall semester while recovering from shoulder surgery. After six months of rehab and two months of reviving his game, he said he can’t wait to get back on the course.

“It took a lot of hard work during the offseason to get to where I was feeling good,” Hardee said. “But after the surgery I feel like everything went according to plan, and I’m ready to get back to competitive golf.”

As one of the key contributors to the team during his sophomore year, Hardee said it was tough to miss half of this season, and he especially missed the tournament atmosphere and competing side-by-side with his teammates.

However, Hardee said dealing with the layoff was not as difficult as some might expect because his teammates stayed in contact with him during his recovery to make sure he still felt like part of the team.

He also said the opportunity to watch other teammates improve and gain tournament experience helped offset his disappointment at being unable to compete.

“This game is what I love to do, so it was hard in that respect,” Hardee said. “But as a member of a team, it was fun to see other guys get out there and work hard and earn their spots in the lineup.”

Hardee’s first tournament in nine months will be from Feb. 19-21 at the Puerto Rico Classic, where he set a career best last year with a round of 67 and a second place finish. He attributes that success to his accuracy off the tee, which gave him confidence in the other facets of his game.

He said he is refraining from setting any results-based expectations for Puerto Rico, though, and is instead focusing on mental toughness. Both he and head coach Jay Seawell said he needs to take his first tournament one step at a time and not be overly critical of himself.

“He’s excited, but that can be a double-edged sword at the same time because he played so well there last year and he’s going to put an expectation on himself,” Seawell said. “You don’t ever want to be ahead of your skis.”

Seawell said that will be Hardee’s biggest challenge in his return to tournament golf: maintaining his passion and competitive nature while ensuring his expectations of himself remain realistic.

With respect to Seawell’s expectations for Hardee this semester, he said he can become one of the best players in college golf.

Seawell said that despite college golf being a team sport, team success comes from individual players reaching their potential, and he expects Hardee to help his teammates do just that.

“In a time where athletics sometimes can get intense, off the golf course he brings a light heartedness that relaxes everybody and makes it fun,” Seawell said. “Our players will be more confident with Jonathan back.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports