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In Windermere, Fla., it’s no coincidence that the last time the University of New Mexico men’s golf team struggled like it did Sunday was the first round of the NCAA Championship last year.
The 11th-ranked Lobos find themselves in 14th place among the 15 teams competing at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, shooting a 9-over 297. UNM trails No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Alabama (8-under 280) by 17 strokes.
Fourteen of the 15 teams in the field are nationally ranked. UNM coach Glen Millican said his team’s round wasn’t bad, but when the field has so many strong teams, not bad isn’t good enough.
“Obviously, when you don’t play very well, it’s going to be exponentially worse in a tournament like this,” Millican said. “It’s kind of like the NCAA Championship last year, where there are so many strong teams competing. “
The Lobos were 27th among the 30-team field at the NCAAs last May but moved up 21 spots by tournament’s end to tie for sixth and qualify for the match-play portion of the event.
“Only one-third of the tournament has been played,” Millican said. “And we had some good things happen today. We’ve just got to come back tomorrow and try to shoot a low round.”
Lobo junior Victor Perez had a solid 2-under 70 to finish in a tie for 10th place, four strokes behind Alabama’s Trey Mullinax and California’s Joel Stalter. Both shot a 6-under 66 to share the 18-hole lead in the 75-player field.
“Victor played a really good round of golf,” Millican said. “That was good to see.”
The rest of the Lobos, however, labored on the Isleworth Golf and Country Club Course. True freshman Andrej Bevins was 3-under par through the first 10 holes but bogeyed his last four holes and five of his last seven to finish at 2-over 74 to tie for 39th place.
Junior Gavin Green started off 5 over through six holes, steadied the ship but couldn’t make any kind of charge. He finished with a 5-over 77 to tie for 60th place.
“Andrej had the same round going that Victor had, but Andrej just didn’t finish very well,” Millican said. “And when Gavin has a tough day, it’s going to be tough for us to score a lot round.”
Sophomore Dylan Healey is tied for 56th at 4-over 76, and junior Sam Saunders had a pair of double-bogeys to close out the front nine and finished at 8-over 80 in 72nd place.
Tournament co-host and No. 16 UCF is second at 6-under 282. No. 3 California and No. 6 Illinois are tied for third at 4-under 284 and fellow Mountain West member UNLV (No. 33) is fifth at 2-under 286.
The second round resumes today with a 7:15 a.m. tee time for UNM, starting on hole No. 10. The final 18 holes will take place Tuesday.
“Whenever you get beat like this, it’s an eye-opener,” Millican said. “But we have three guys that haven’t been here before, and when we good back and look at the round, we can show the guys how simple it can be to shoot two or three stroke better per man, and then we’re looking at an even-par round.
“It’s good that we can regroup and talk about our round, rather than play 36 holes on the first day and risk making the same mistakes twice,” Millican said. “The goal tomorrow is to go out and shoot a low round.”