After successfully qualifying for match play at the SEC Championship, Alabama took the top-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores to the limit on Saturday before their eventual 4-1 defeat in the quarterfinals.


After finishing tied for fourth after the opening stroke-play portion at Georgia’s Sea Island Golf Club, the Crimson Tide were seeded No. 5 in the match play bracket. This meant the unfortunate opening round draw of Golfstat’s No. 1 team in the country: Vanderbilt, who were seeded No. 4.


With the overall match tied at 1-1 after freshman Nick Dunlap’s lead off win and William Moll’s 5&4 victory over Alabama freshman Jonathan Griz, the three remaining matches were tied or featured one up leads for Vanderbilt with just four holes remaining.


Junior JP Cave’s match against Matthew Riedel was tied headed into the par-4 ninth hole, where Cave would make bogey to surrender a 2-1 lead to the Commodores.


Thomas Ponder’s match against Reid Davenport saw Ponder lose two straight holes after consecutive birdies from the Vanderbilt senior. Despite this, Ponder birdied the sixth hole to cut Davenport’s lead to just one up, but would tie the next three holes to seal the Crimson Tide’s fate.


In the rubber match, senior Canon Claycomb got out to an early two up lead on the first nine against reigning NCAA Individual Champion Gordan Sargent before Sargent battled back on the second nine. Sargent would even up the match with a birdie on the par-3 third, and then the lead would change hands every hole over the next five holes.


Sargent held a one up lead over Claycomb when the overall match was secured by Davenport’s victory. The final hole was not recorded on Golfstat.


Vanderbilt would advance to the final of the SEC Championship before falling to Florida 3-1-1.


An Excellent Start

Alabama got off to a hot start at the SEC Championships, sitting just a shot behind the lead after the opening 18 and co-leading the tournament after the second round of stroke play.


The SEC Championship format sees three rounds of stroke play between all 14 SEC teams, before the top-8 finishers advance into a single-elimination match play bracket.


The Crimson Tide had two players inside the top-3 through 36-holes, with Claycomb in second and Ponder – who co-held the clubhouse lead following the opening round – in third.


Claycomb would lead the Tide in the stroke play portion, following up an opening 67 with a second-round 66. His Friday 71 – featuring 17 pars and just a single bogey – would secure his solo fourth finish.


Ponder’s six-under 64 on Wednesday featured his first career ace on the 176-yard par-3 17th, in addition to five birdies. The Junior would fire an even-par 70 on Thursday before faltering with a 77 in the final round to finish T28 (+1).


Dunlap had a consistent showing during the 54-holes of stroke play, shooting rounds of 69-72-69 in his first post-season appearance to finish T19 (E). Fellow rookie Griz would also finish T19 after a clean outing of three-consecutive even-par 70s.


Cave rounded out Alabama’s lineup with rounds of 77-73-74 to finish T62 (+14).


No. 13 Tennessee won the stroke play portion of the SEC Championship at 14-under par, defeating No. 15 Texas A&M by one stroke.


Shifting Focus

Alabama will now await selection for an NCAA Regional, which will take place from May 15-17 in a TBD location.


Selections will be revealed live on the Golf Channel on Wednesday, May 2 at 12 p.m. CT.


Photo Credit to Alabama Athletics.


Follow Nicholas Pursley on Twitter @nicholaspursley for 24/7 coverage of Alabama Men’s Golf.