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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Alabama's Davis Riley to turn pro, skip final semester

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Davis Riley, a highly touted prospect as a junior and one of college golf’s most promising players, is leaving for the paid ranks.

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine reports that the Alabama senior will forego the spring season to turn professional.

This means the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide will lose its top player as it enters the spring.

“As the year went on, I think the allure and the dream of playing professional golf just became too big,” Alabama head coach Jay Seawell told Golf Channel. “It’s just like I tell all of our players, when we recruit them it’s not a four-year decision, so if it’s only three-and-a-half (years) it’s still a lifetime. We’re going to pull for him and we’re thankful for everything he did while he was here.”

Riley, of Hattiesburg, Miss., will certainly go into the pro game knowing he’s been among the best before. The 21-year-old was a two-time U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up and was near the No. 1 ranking in junior golf before starting at Alabama.

He finished each of his first three seasons at Alabama ranked in the top 55 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, including a junior season that netted him a No. 22 ranking.

Riley helped lead Alabama to the finals of the 2018 NCAA Championship. The Crimson Tide fell to host Oklahoma State. He returned this fall and posted a pair of runner-up showings, and all five of his finishes were 13th or better.

That put him No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings after the fall.

The Crimson Tide have plenty of good players, as five others are ranked in the top 250. Davis Shore (No. 27), Frankie Capan (No. 88) and Wilson Furr (No. 223) stand out.

But a national contender has just lost its top man and has made the task of matching last year’s finish (or closing out with a national title this time) that much harder.

The Alabama women’s team has it even tougher, with Lauren Stephenson (ranked seventh) and Kristen Gillman (No. 43) moving on to the pro ranks ahead of the spring after earning LPGA cards.

For the men’s squad, Alabama will be looking to rebound and rise up with its top player now gone.