Stevens: Lobos' Sam Saunders Wins City Men's Title
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  07/09/2014

Saunders Misses Cut:  Lobo Sam Saunders fired a 70-79 at the Trans-Mississippi being played in Tulsa, Okla., and missed the 36-hole cut by two shots. 

 Lobo Sam Saunders wins 2014 Albuquerque City Men’s Golf Championship

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

When you are down seven shots with 18 holes to play, realism sets in.  You wonder how big the runner-up trophy is. Maybe you practice your runner-up smile -- for the third time!

When you are competitor with great faith in your golf game and well aware that sometimes in sports “things happen,” you think about that miracle charge to the win.

New Mexico’s Sam Saunders made the charge and it’s probably safe to say that rush to the top of the leaderboard for the Albuquerque City Men’s Amateur Championship wasn’t exactly what Germany did to Brazil in the World Cup.

It was more a steady, slow charge to the win.  By a single shot.

“I knew my chances were slim because I was so far behind Nick (ex-Lobo Nick Geyer),” said Saunders, who joins his brother and ex-Lobo, Steve Saunders (2006), as an Albuquerque City Champion.  “I believed I had a shot, but I thought it would take a 61 or a 62 to get there.

"I needed to get out to a fast start to get that low, but I didn’t really start out that fast.”

Playing the final 18 at Los Altos, Saunders was only one-under par after three holes.  He birdied No. 4 and then delivered a big blow on No. 8 by chipping in for an eagle.  “I hadn’t been pressuring him (Geyer) much until then,” said Saunders.

The Lobo senior-to-be, who also won the New Mexico-West Texas Amateur this summer, then added a birdie on No. 9.  He was now two shots behind Geyer with nine to play and Geyer was struggling a bit, especially with his putter.

It was a new ball game.

It was payback of sorts, too. Geyer had claimed his seven-shot lead after 54 holes with a blistering 8-under par 64 carved out over the links of Arroyo del Oso.  Saunders struggled a bit with a 72 which followed his opening round of 64.  Geyer had shot an opening-round 65 at Los Altos, so there was no reason to think Geyer wouldn’t stay hot and win the title.

“I was two down at the turn and I knew then I had a chance,” said Saunders.  “And Nick just didn’t make any putts.”

Saunders finally worked his way into the lead by dropping a 13-foot putt on No. 17.  He had a par on the final hole to seal the win. Geyer ballooned to a final-round 74 and Saunders carded a 6-under 66 to grab his first City Men’s title. Saunders, who had finished second twice in this tourney, said the City Men’s trophy is a big deal for him. 

“It’s my home town and I’ve played in it for ten years or so,” he said. “It’s a great tournament to play in because you get a lot of fans who come out and the media comes out and all that hype around it makes it a little more special.

"You also play it on all the city courses I grew up playing on that that’s a lot of fun.”

Saunders is preparing to enter his senior year at New Mexico and then try his hand at professional golf.  But Saunders says his focus is only on his senior year because the Lobos have a huge chip on their shoulder and gigantic motivation for 2015.

They missed making the 2014 NCAA finals by a single shot. The Lobos shot 9-under as a team on the final seven holes to charge from ninth place to sixth place, but only the top five teams at the regional advanced to the NCAA finals.

“I’m so excited about next year (at UNM) especially after what happened to us in missing nationals by a shot,’ said Saunders, who was at the Trans-Mississippi Championship in Tulsa, Okla., this week missing the 36-hole cut by two shots.  “We are looking at coming back and making a charge at a national championship.  We know we have the team that can do it.

“This summer my goal is to try and win everything I can play in until we (Lobos) can get back to the nationals.”

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