The sophomore didn't want to miss the celebration. Alabama men’s golf team had just clinched its first NCAA championship Sunday with a 4-1 victory over Illinois at the Crabapple Course at the Capital City Club, giving the university a total of six championships in two years.
“It’s incredible to get this done, to be able to come back and win after last year,” Thomas said. “We worked so hard and it all paid off today.”
It had been a long 365 days since the Crimson Tide fell to Texas in the finals. Thomas was the only Tide player to drop a match against Illinois, with Thomas Pieters finishing 1-up, but it didn’t matter as Alabama steam rolled the Fighting Illini in three of the four matches they won.
Thomas found his mother and father for a huge embrace before bolting off in pursuit of his teammates. The reigning National Player of the Year received handshakes and hugs from fans as he pushed through the strong Alabama contingent.
First, there was teammate Trey Mullinax who clinched his match at 1-up after a hard fought battle with Illinois’ Charlie Danielson. Thomas leaped into Mullinax’s arms and the two hugged before running off for the rest of the team.
“This just shows how good we are as a team,” Mullinax said. “We have so many good players and we challenged each other everyday. We grinded it out and ended up on top.”
Next was lead-man Bobby Wyatt, who closed out his match with Illinois’ Thomas Detry, 6-and-5. Wyatt was 7-up through seven holes to start the match.
“That’s why (Bobby) went first. When he’s hot, there’s nobody in the country that can beat him,” Thomas said.
Wyatt said it was nice being first in the lineup.
“Everybody is at that first tee box screaming and that gets you going,” Wyatt said. “I loved the role coach put me in this week and I was able to pull it out today.”
Thomas’ sprint through the course led him to Tide coach Jay Seawell next, who lifted him over his arms with joy.
A few steps over, Thomas found Cory Whitsett, who finished off Illinois’ Alex Burge after 15 holes to win his match, 4-and-3. There too was Thomas’ roommate, senior Scott Strohmeyer, who closed out Illinois’ Brian Campbell, 3-and-2.
“It means the world to me to be able to get one for coach and all of the guys,” Strohmeyer said. “This is my last college event so I’m pretty emotional, but I’m glad I was able to go out on top.”
Whitsett had an up close view of last year’s loss. He was locked in a battle with Texas senior Dylan Frittelli, who sunk a 30-foot putt on the 18th green that gave the Longhorns a 3-2 victory. Sunday was a fitting redemption for Whitsett.
“Watching Texas do what they did last year, all storming the green, that was really hard,” Whittsett said. “I’ll never forget going down and kneeling by my bag with my head in my hands. That was the loneliest I’ve ever felt on a golf course.
“No one really wanted to talk to me because they didn’t know if they should hug me or talk to me. This year, everyone wanted to see me. It was awesome, I mean pure joy.”
Perhaps Seawell summed up best. After the Tide won, Seawell said he saw former UA golfer Cecil Ingram -- son of former UA athletics director Hootie Ingram -- who played in the 1970s. Seawell said Ingram could not speak as he cried tears of joy.
“It gave me a perspective of what this means for people who have played on this team,” Seawell said. “There have been hundreds of guys who’ve played for Alabama golf and this trophy is for all of them. Everybody has a part. Everybody has blood, sweat and tears in this and we’re a big family.”