(January 24, 2017) -- With the recent success of former Alabama standout Justin Thomas, we thought it would be a good time to check in with some current Alabama players. We caught up with redshirt freshman Josh Sedeno and sophomore Davis Riley for the first edition of our AmateurGolf.com College Spotlight Series.
In case you missed it, Justin Thomas, who turned pro after leading Alabama to its first national title in 2013, started his 2017 PGA Tour season with back-to-back wins at the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open. At the Sony, Thomas become the youngest PGA professional to shoot a 59 which came in Thursday's opening round. In addition to his record-setting 59, Thomas set the PGA record for lowest 36-hole score (123) and tied the 54-hole record (188).
"It’s a good example of how anything is possible with hard work and having the right approach," Riley said of his good friend's success. "He’s easily the hottest player in the world right now."
Thomas is a frequent visitor to the Alabama practice facilities at Ol' Colony Golf Complex in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and serves as a mentor to Riley.
"He's someone who I can always reach out to and bounce ideas off of, " said Riley. "The biggest piece of advice he gave me was not to be afraid of guys on tour because they're not far off of where I am."
Riley certainty is not far off. The Hattiesburg, Miss. native qualified for the 2015 U.S. Open at age 18, recorded five top-10's in his freshman year for the Crimson Tide, and made it to the semifinals at the 2016 Western Amateur.
His next goal is to capture his first individual title for Alabama which he hopes will further prove his case for a selection on this year's Walker Cup team.
"It's a dream of mine to play on the Walker Cup," Riley asserted. "I feel I'm in a good position to make the team right now and if I keep playing well I think it will happen."
Riley wasn't included in the Walker Cup practice session in December but that does not mean he won't be considered. Jordan Niebrugge was selected in 2015 without receiving an invite to the 16-man practice squad.
Were he to be picked, Riley would continue the streak of Alabama players to play for the U.S., joining Robbie Shelton in 2015 and a trio of Alabama golfers in 2013: Justin Thomas, Bobby Wyatt, and Cory Whitsett.
With the level of talent that has gone through the program, I wondered what sort of recognition the golfers received on a campus that is so heavily involved in their football team.
"We get a lot of attention around campus," he ensured. "Besides football we’re the only other men’s team with a national championship under our belts and people recognize and appreciate that."
It's this kind of support that drew Josh Sedeno, a native of Roseville, Calif., to the program. Sedeno was one of the top recruits of the class of 2016 and had originally committed to SMU before NCAA sanctions on the program prompted him to explore other options. Sedeno is playing his first full year for the Tide after redshirting for a semester last spring.
"The phrase 'southern hospitality' has always rung true here from when I visited on my recruiting trip to now," he said. "Everyone has been extremely welcoming and we get a lot of support from fellow students, faculty and members of the community."
Head coach Jay Seawell also played a big role in attracting Sedeno. Seawell coached the Tide to back-to-back national championships in 2013-14 and has produced 31 GCAA All-Americans in his career. He was inducted in the 2016 GCAA Hall of Hame in December.
"It’s really special being around Coach Seawell. He knows what it takes to be successful and has been around so many great players." he added. "He’s been such a positive influence on me."
Sedeno was thrilled when Coach Seawell decided to play in the Cypress Point Classic this fall in Monterey, Calif. The tournament was a field of eight teams that played head-to-head matches at the famous Cypress Point Golf Club.
"It was a really cool event for me because a lot of my teammates hadn’t been to California before and I was able to talk to them about the course." he said. "It really is the Augusta of the West Coast."
Sedeno hopes to build upon his experience this spring. To do so, he will have to earn one of five starting spots through a series of qualifying rounds that begin at the end of the month.
"My goal this spring is to gain a more involved role on the team," he confirmed. "It’s tough coming in as a freshman and making the lineup right away but I’m going to do the best I can to make that happen."
Alabama begins its spring season Feb. 19-21 at the Puerto Rico Classic hosted by Purdue University. The Tide are returning as the event's defending champions.
Throughout the coming months, the AmateurGolf.com College Spotlight Series will give you an inside look at how college teams and players prepare for and compete in the spring season.