May 5, 2008
The University of New Mexico men's golf team came into the season with high hopes and a talented group of returners looking for their fifth Mountain West title in six seasons. However, tough luck and no breaks along the way left the Lobos with a sixth place finish at the MWC Championships and a season ending sooner than most expected. The Lobos shot a 16-over 868 (296-284-288) at the MWC tournament to end head coach Glen Millican's 7th year at New Mexico. The Lobos posted four top-10s in 2007-08, but failed to make the postseason for the first time since the 1984 season.
Despite having lost All-American Charlie Beljan to graduation, the Lobos came into the season with four very experienced returners. Senior Robb Bierbaum, juniors Steve Saunders and Nick Geyer and sophomore Kyle Nielsen all had at least 30 rounds under their belts in the 2006-07 season. Saunders boasted a 73.55 career stroke average, ranking 12th on the Lobos' all time list, while he and Geyer both had competed in each of the two previous NCAA Regionals.
Geyer decided before the season to redshirt the 2007-08 campaign, but the return of junior Daniel Saltz from offseason knee surgery seemed to fill the void. However, inconsistent play struck every member of the team, resulting in an up and down season for the Lobo men's golf team.
The Lobos opened the season with a seventh place finish at the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational at the Eisenhower Golf Club in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was the first time Millican had three native New Mexicans in the line-up at once with juniors Steve Saunders and Guillermo Chavez and sophomore Brandon Putnam. New Mexico returned home to the UNM Championship Course for the Williams H. Tucker Invitational in the second week of the fall season. Junior Jacob Lestishen posted a 4-under 212 (70-70-72) to tie for second place in the event. Since he was playing as an individual, his score did not count towards the Lobos team total of 877 (297-290-298, +21) and seventh place finish.
UNM followed up the Tucker with a 12th place finish at the Husky Invitational in Seattle, Wash., and a ninth place score at the Windon Memorial in Glencoe, Ill. Putnam carded a hole-in-one on the 216-yard par-3 eighth hole in the second round of the Husky before the final 18 was cancelled by rain. Junior Jon Sauer tied for fifth at the Windon with a 3-under 210 (70-69-71), his best showing of the season. New Mexico posted an 85-over score of 949 (232-230-306) in terrible conditions at the Club Glove in Somis, Calif., in their final fall tournament. The Lobos had to battle high winds and wildfires for all 54 holes.
The Lobos began the spring season with a tie for ninth at the PING Arizona Intercollegiate and a 16th place finish at the John Burn Intercollegiate in Hawaii. The Lobos' 279 in the final round of the John Burns was their best 18-hole score of the season. UNM made an east coast trip to the E-Z-Go Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Ga., in March where they placed 17th. The Lobos went on to post a 12th place finish at the National Invitational and back-to-back 15th place showings at the Morris Williams and ASU Thunderbird in their next three events. Sophomore Kyle Nielsen had his career best outing at the ASU Thunderbird, finishing ninth at 1-over (66-70-78=214). New Mexico's best tournament of the season came at the PING BYU Cougar Classic where they ended fifth (280-281-303=864, E) in the final event before the MWC Championships.
There were some bright spots for UNM during the 2007-08 season. Freshman Tom Carlson surprised many by leading the team with a 73.83 stroke average. Junior Jon Sauer, a transfer from Central Missouri State, was second on the team with a 74.00 average. Saunders managed to turn around a tough season with a pair of scores in the 60's in his last two rounds of the season. He finished the year with a 74.92 average, but shot 68-69 in the second and third rounds of the MWC Tournament. Putnam posted five scores in the top-30 while junior Parker Pemberton placed 11th in his last event of the season at the PING BYU Cougar Classic.
Despite not making the NCAA Regional field, the future is very bright for the Lobos. UNM only losses one senior in Robb Bierbaum and returns the core of their line up. Geyer's return after his redshirt season will also add talent and experience to the rotation. New Mexico will be loaded with five seniors next season that will be hungry to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 2007-08 campaign.
Robb Bierbaum Sr. Sioux Falls, S.D.
75.29 stroke average 17 rounds
Only senior on the team. Best finish was a tie for 17th at the Husky Invitational (72-77=149, +5). Shot 72 three times on the year for his best 18-hole total.
Tom Carlson Fr. Sioux Falls, S.D.
73.83 stroke average 18 rounds
Lowest season average on the team. Best finish was a tie for 21st at the MWC Championships. Tied for 24th with a 6-under 210 (73-70-67) at the John Burns Intercollegiate in just his second tournament of his career. 67 in the John Burns third round tied for the second lowest 18-hole score on the team this season.
Guillermo Chavez Jr. Clovis, N.M.
75.13 stroke average 8 rounds
Played in the first three tournament of the season. Best finish was a tie for 30th (76-74-73=223, +7) at the Tucker when he played as an individual. 73 in the Tucker final round was his best 18-hole score.
Jacob Lestishen Jr. Castle Rock, Colo.
75.30 stroke average 23 rounds
Had two top-20 finishes on the year. Tied for second at the Tucker (70-70-72=212, -4) while playing as an individual. Tied for 11th (69-70-75=214, -2) at the PING BYU Cougar Classic. 69 in the first round of the PING BYU Cougar Classic was his low 18 of the season.
Kyle Nielsen So. Lake Havasu, Ariz.
75.57 stroke average 21 rounds
Played in each of the last four tournaments. Career best ninth place finish at the ASU Thunderbird with a 1-over 214 (66-70-78). Was the leader after 36 holes. 66 in the first round was the low 18 total by a Lobo this season and his career low.
Andrew Patapaksiri Fr. Cypress, Calif.
77.00 stroke average 3 rounds
Played as an individual at the Tucker in his only event as a Lobo before transferring after the fall semester.
Parker Pemberton Jr. Apple Valley, Minn.
74.25 stroke average 12 rounds
Third lowest stroke average on the team. Career best tie for 11th at the PING BYU Cougar Classic when he shot a career-low 2-under 214 (68-70-76). 68 in the first round was his 18-hole career best. It was his only top-50 showing of the season.
Brandon Putnam So. Albuquerque, N.M.
75.76 stroke average 29 rounds
Career low 18 hole total (69 - 2nd) and 54-hole total (217, +1) at the National Invitational in March. Also led the team with a 20th place finish. Posted three top-20 showings on the year. Had five finishes in the top-30 overall.
Daniel Saltz Jr. Scottsdale, Ariz.
75.33 stroke average 6 rounds
Participated in the Tucker (76-73-76=225, +9, T40) in the fall and the PING Arizona (75-76-76=227, +14, T69) in the spring in his only two outing of the season. 73 in the Tucker was his best 18-hole total of the season.
Jon Sauer Jr. St. Cloud, Minn.
74.00 stroke average 33 rounds
Second on the team with 33 rounds played and a 74.00 stroke average. Led the team with six rounds of 70 or lower and tied for the lead with five top-30 finishes. Best showing was a tie for fifth at the Windon Memorial with a 3-under 210 (70-69-71). Won the High Country Shootout with the JV squad with a 17-under 199 (66-63-70).
Steve Saunders Jr. Albuquerque, N.M.
74.92 stroke average 38 rounds
Only player on the squad to play in every round this season. Broke 70 in his last two rounds of the season, posting a 6-over 219 (82-68-69) at the MWC Championships. Tied for the team lead with nine rounds of par or lower. Shot 68 twice on the season. Also tied for team high with five top-30 finishes. Best finish was a tied for seventh at the Tucker with a 1-under 215 (70-71-74).
Alex Zannes Fr. Albuquerque, N.M.
Played in the Wyoming Cowboy Classic with the JV team in his only event of the season, placing 106th with a 16-over 226 (80-71-75).
PUTNAM DROPS IN FIRST CAREER ACE: UNM Sophomore Brandon Putnam carded his first ace on the 216-yard par 3 eighth hole at the Husky Invitational in the fall. He flew a 4-iron off the tee into the cup for the hole-in-one.
MILLICAN SECOND IN CAREER WINS AMONG LOBO HEAD COACHES: The Lobos have won 13 events under current head coach Glen Millican, the second highest number by a head coach in school history. Dick McGuire won 28 times in his tenure from 1954-76.