TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Golf is Jay Seawell’s business and just happens to be one of Nick Saban’s offseason pleasures.
It’s high on Saban’s list of favorite escapes from the coaching grind.
So it’s no surprise that the two Alabama coaches — Saban, the gridiron leader and Seawell, the Crimson Tide’s men’s golf coach — have built a strong and mutually beneficial friendship.
Seawell has given Saban tips on his golf swing — and shared one timely anecdote last season. Saban can offer Seawell counsel on the potentially suffocating pressures of being a two-time defending national champion.
He’s been there, done that.
“We’re golf and I don’t have the demands that he has, but there still is the pressures of it and the demands, and the extra stuff that goes with winning, which are good,” said Seawell, whose team has won the past two NCAA titles. “They’re not bad but they do wear on you mentally, and the expectations do. After you build it, sometimes what you build can eat you, if you’re not careful.
“That’s what we kind of talk about.”
During the offseason, Saban sometimes heads from his office to the golf team’s practice facility to hit a few balls with Seawell and his players.
Saban said he’s one of the few people around he can talk with about “some of the issues and problems that you have, just trying to be a good coach for your players.”
Seawell even gave a fitting message last fall after popping into Saban’s fairway-sized office. He told of having his players watch “Secretariat” after losing the NCAA championship match in 2012 and shared with Saban the line: “Let them run.”
Saban imparted the message to his own players, and mentioned it at a news conference as well.
“I just thought our team was playing tight all the time and maybe worried about expectations and all that stuff early in the season,” said Saban, who won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. “We lost to Ole Miss and played a hard game at Arkansas, and it’s the first time I saw them show emotions. I just thought that was pretty fitting what he said about just, ‘Let them run.’
“The horse ran a good race and we played a pretty good game after that so…”
Alabama went from surviving 14-13 at Arkansas, which hadn’t won a Southeastern Conference game, to obliterating No. 21 Texas A&M 59-0 and scoring 35 points in the second quarter alone.
“I was really worried because heck, a golf coach is now getting talked about before the game,” Seawell said. “When they won 59-0, I felt like I was OK.”
The two have actually only played a couple of rounds of golf together, but one was especially memorable for both. They were guests of Shoal Creek President Mike Thompson at Augusta National last spring.
Saban picked the PGA Tour’s Michael Thompson as his playing partner against Seawell and Mike Thompson, and wound up coming out $5 ahead. The framed bill now sits on a shelf in his office and Saban recounts the tale whenever Seawell brings a recruit to visit him.
“I think the biggest thing is how just a regular guy he is — who just may be one of the greatest football coaches of all time,” Seawell said. “But he’s just a regular guy who is easy to talk to. He was asking Michael as much about golf as they were asking him about football.”
Seawell describes Saban as “probably a mid-80s shooter” who can score in the 70s over the summer once he gets some more time on the course.
He also savors the chance to see a softer, funnier, storytelling side of Saban than the media and fans often encounter. That includes dinners with Saban and wife Terry and a chance to see “how much they really truly like each other, how good their marriage is.”
And on the course: “He just gets to be Nick Saban,” Seawell said. “I think golf allows him to be Nick Saban, which I think is a really, really good deal.”
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