May 28, 2013 (Updated at 7:41 p.m.)
ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Fortunately, the University of New Mexico men’s golf team has experience climbing back from a tough first day at an NCAA tournament event
Tuesday’s first day of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships left the fifth-ranked Lobos in a tie for 27th place with No. 19 Auburn among the 30 teams participating. UNM shot a 12-over 292 and trails first-round leader Arizona State by 22 strokes.
More importantly, the Lobos are 13 strokes out of eighth place, which is the spot they need to be after Thursday’s third round to qualify for match play to determine a national champion. Currently, No. 3 Texas and No. 11 Oklahoma State are tied for seventh at 1-under 279.
"Our score today certainly is not the score our guys are capable of shooting," UNM coach Glen Millican said. "But we've played bad first rounds before and come back. They don't give prizes after 18 or 36 holes. We just have to come out tomorrow and give ourselves a chance to be in the hunt on Thursday."
The 40th-ranked Sun Devils shot a 10-under 270, on the strength of Jon Rahm’s 9-under 61, and have a two-stroke lead over No. 8 and tournament host Georgia Tech at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course.
Sophomore Victor Perez is the top Lobo after the first round with a 2-over 72 and is tied for 66th place among the 156 competitors. Fellow sophomore Gavin Green and senior Benjamin Bauch are tied for 95th at 3-over 73. Golfers still were finishing their rounds Tuesday, which can affect the players' standing.
Senior John Catlin is tied for 113th at 4-over 74, and senior James Erkenbeck, UNM’s top player and winner of the NCAA Columbus Regional two weeks ago, is tied for 126th place after carding a 5-over 75.
The Lobos’ top four scores count toward their team score.
"Everybody had it going for awhile," Millican said. "We just didn't finish very well."
UNM was inconsistent on the back nine, which pushed the team down in the standings. The five players combined for six birdies, 11 bogeys and two double-bogeys. Catlin, who was having the Lobos’ best round for much of the day, shot bogeys on holes 15, 16 and 17 to fall off the pace.
Erkenbeck, Green and Bauch each had double-bogeys, which helped pushed their scores above par.
"Today wasn't their best; they know that," Millican said. "With so many good teams in the tournament, it's not going to be easy to get in contention (for the top eight). But they are capable of doing it.
The Lobos will look to get back in the hunt Wednesday, with a 5:20 a.m. stat off the back nine. The Lobos again will play with Texas and No. 6 Washington, which is 10th place after a 1-over 281 on Tuesday.
"Judging by the scores today, they were generally lower in the morning, which is typically the way most golf courses play," Millican said. "We have to take advantage of our early tee time and not worry about anything else."