Alabama coach Jay Seawell said Monday that sophomore Gavin Moynihan has left the team because of homesickness, dealing the two-time defending NCAA champions a significant blow as they look to become the first team in nearly 50 years to win three consecutive titles.
Though Moynihan told Global Golf Post’s Brian Keogh that “no decision has been made yet,” Seawell said the 20-year-old Irishman informed him of his decision in a meeting last week.
Moynihan, who won the 2012 Irish Amateur, represented Great Britain and Ireland at the 2013 Walker Cup and captured this year’s Scottish Amateur, participated in the team’s championship ceremony at Alabama’s home football game on Saturday. Seawell said Moynihan was crying on the field, in part, the coach said, “because he knew that was his last moment with the team.”
“That’ll do it,” Seawell said by phone Monday. “We’ll take a little bit of a hit there, but it’s a good thing that it’s happening now. We can digest it and put it back together.”
Alabama is ranked No. 19 in the country after completing its fall slate, but the Tide is coming off a victory in its final event, the Jerry Pate Invitational, where Moynihan finished 12th individually. Despite the uneven start, Alabama was trending upward as it looked to become the first team since Houston in the mid-1960s to win three consecutive NCAA titles.
Alabama doesn’t play again until Feb. 22-24 Puerto Rico Classic, giving Moynihan four months to change his mind. That’s an eternity for a 20-year-old, of course, but he’d likely fall too far behind in his schoolwork if he waits until the spring semester.
Individually, Moynihan is No. 222 in Golfstat's rankings, but that’s mostly a product of a limited schedule. Playing as Alabama's No. 3 man, he had top-20 finishes in both events this season and also finished 15th in the World Amateur Team Championship for Team Ireland. He played in only two official events last season, struggling to crack the starting five because of the quality of players ahead of him on Alabama’s NCAA-winning team.
Moynihan told GGP’s Keogh that homesickness was affecting his performance. “I feel more comfortable and happier on the course back in Europe, which leads to better golf,” he said.
The 39th-ranked amateur in the world, Moynihan is not expected to turn pro and instead has his sights on making the 2015 Walker Cup team.
“I’m surprised but not floored,” Seawell said. “I knew he was struggling being so far from home. You have to have a serious commitment, to know you’re going to be away from home for a long time and away from your comfort zone. For some guys it’s just harder.”
Seven Alabama players have seen playing time this fall, with Robby Shelton and Tom Lovelady teeing it up in all four events. In Moynihan’s absence the Tide will have to rely on Dru Love – the son of 20-time PGA Tour winner Davis Love III – and freshmen Jonathan Hardee and Tyler Hitchner, among others.
“We’ve got a bunch of scrappers,” Seawell said. “With the golf that Gavin was playing, we can replace the score, but it’s his experience in (international) championships that we’ll miss.
“But we don’t feel sorry for ourselves. I have the utmost confidence in our guys or they wouldn’t be here.”