Oct. 16, 2000
By DAVID H. WHITE JR.P
Graeme McDowell spent all summer working on his golf game.
McDowell, a sophomore at UAB, won five consecutive tournaments in his home nation of Ireland this summer and also was on the Great Britain-Ireland team that defeated the United States in the Palmer Cup, an annual competition pitting the top collegiate golfers from the U.S. against the top collegiate golfers from Great Britain and Ireland.
McDowell has carried that hot streak over into the U.S. collegiate ranks this fall.
McDowell, who is ranked sixth in the nation in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, has finished third out of 80 golfers in his first two tournaments this fall for a UAB golf team that is ranked eighth in the nation by the Golfweek/Sagarin performance index.
McDowell and his teammates are playing today and Tuesday in the eighth Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate Tournament at Old Overton golf course. The teams played 36 holes today and will conclude the tournament with 18 holes on Tuesday, beginning at 8 a.m.
Some of the other teams playing in this event include No. 1 Georgia, No. 3 Brigham Young and No. 4 Arizona. Alabama, ranked No. 30, is the host team. No. 29 Auburn also is competing in a field that will include the nation's top-ranked player, Bryce Molder of No. 27 Georgia Tech.
"Realistically, we've got to play really well to win it," McDowell said. "If we play solid to good golf we'll have a top five finish and that would be big for us."
The top eight teams in each district qualify for the NCAA regionals. These top teams are determined by head-to-head competition during the season. There are 38 teams in UAB's district - all from the Southeastern Conference and south - probably the strongest district in the nation.
The Blazers finished sixth in the South District last year and with McDowell, two-time Alabama amateur champion Peyton Osborn, Daniel Ozley, junior college All-America Craig Gordon and junior Drew Jones, the Blazers aim to get back to the regionals, where according to UAB Coach Alan Kaufman,"anything can happen."
McDowell won the Irish Amateur this summer. Kaufman believes McDowell's putting made a difference. "He switched to cross-handed style this summer and he gained a lot of confidence with his putting that has carried over to the rest of his game," Kaufman said.
McDowell was thrilled his collegiate European team won the fifth Palmer Cup.
"We had a pretty strong team and it was on home soil this year," he said. "It was my first time to play and it was exciting just because the American team is so strong and there were a lot of big names in college golf. For us to beat them for the first time was pretty huge."
Now McDowell is focused on he and his teammates objective of playing in the NCAAs. He believes the Sagarin performance rankings are a little misleading right now.
"You've got to wait for five or six tournaments before it becomes a little more accurate," he said. "But we're going to try to stay there.
"This is a tournament where we need to play well against these teams head to head. This is the biggest tournament of the season."