Following last season, there was considerable evidence that Alabama had the nation’s best college golf program. The Alabama women won the national championship (in a year when Crimson Tide teams took home four national titles), while the Bama men finished second in the nation, beaten out on the final hole of the grueling NCAA Tournament.
The first polls are out for the 2012-13 season, and Alabama is ranked number one in the nation in the pre-season polls for both men’s golf and women’s golf.
The Crimson Tide men’s team is number one in the Golf World/Nike Division I Coaches Poll, while the women are picked to repeat for the national crown by the Golf World/National Golf Coaches Division I Poll.
It is the second time the Bama men have been first in the pre-season poll since polls began for the 2001-02 season. This is the first year the Crimson Tide women’s team has been voted number one in the preseason.
The Crimson Tide men received 558 points and 13 out of the possible 23 first-place votes.
Behind Alabama are the defending NCAA champions, the Texas Longhorns, who received eight first-place votes. Rounding out the top five are three Pac-12 schools -- No. 3 California, No. 4 UCLA, and No. 5 Washington.
“It is exciting to be the pre-season number one, but there is a long year ahead of us and we know how difficult it will be,” Alabama Men’s Coach Jay Seawell said. “Coming so close to a championship a year ago has only strengthened this team’s bond and work ethic. We are looking forward to each shot this season and the opportunity to perform to our standards.”
The Southeastern Conference has six men’s teams ranked in the pre-season poll. Following Alabama is No. 6 Auburn, while No. 8 Arkansas and No. 10 Texas A&M also rank in the top 10. Florida comes in at No. 12, and Georgia sneaks in the top 20 at number 19. Also receiving votes were SEC teams South Carolina, LSU, and Tennessee.
The Crimson Tide returns four starters from last year’s runner-up finish, but loses last year’s team captain Hunter Hamrick.
Returning for the Tide this year is the top-ranked individual in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and the reigning National Player of the Year, sophomore Justin Thomas. Last year, Thomas recorded four victories and a 70.39 scoring average. Thomas was the recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Award, the 2012 Haskins Award, a consensus first-team All-America, and a semifinalist this summer at the U.S. Amateur.
The junior duo of Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt also return for their third season with the Tide. Whitsett recorded two victories last year and was both an All-SEC selection and a second-team All-America pick by both Golfweek and PING. Wyatt also was an All-SEC pick and also received second-team All-America honors by Golfweek and a third-team pick by PING.
Alabama opens its season at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in Rocky Face, Ga., September 7-9.
On the women’s side, Alabama earned 19 of the 27 first-place votes with UCLA in second place with six first-place votes.
“Winning the national championship last year will not change how we approach this season,” Alabama Women’s Coach Mic Potter said. “If anything, it serves to validate the ideas that we have relied on in the past. Our goal is winning championships, and our philosophy is to prepare every day to be successful. It is an honor to be the pre-season number one, but our focus right now is the first tournament of this season.”
Alabama returns four starters from last year’s team that captured the school’s first national championship. Senior Jennifer Kirby, junior Stephanie Meadow, and sophomore Hannah Collier anchor the team, while sophomore Johanna Tillström and senior Courtney McKim also boast starting experience.
Southern California is third in the pre-season poll with Arizona State fourth, Duke fifth and North Carolina rounding out the top six. The next five all hail from the Southeastern Conference with Auburn (seventh), Vanderbilt (eighth), Florida (ninth), LSU (10th) and Georgia (11th). The SEC has a total of 10 teams in the top 25 with Tennessee (13th), Texas A&M (15th), South Carolina (17th) and Arkansas (18th).
Alabama opens the 2012-13 season September 9-11, at the Cougar Classic presented by Piggly Wiggly at the Yeamans Hall Club in Charleston, S.C.