NCAA MEN’S GOLF AUBURN REGIONAL
Where: Auburn University Club, Auburn, Ala.
Tee times: 7:20-8 a.m. MT Thursday-Friday (playing partners Auburn and BYU), TBA Saturday-Sunday
Teams in the field: No. 1 Alabama, No. 13 Texas, No. 14 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Auburn, No. 22 New Mexico, No. 39 Kennesaw State, No. 42 BYU, No. 50 Louisville, Colorado, UNC-Greensboro, UC Davis, Sam Houston State, St. John’s, Alabama State.
Top-50 players in the field: No. 1 Robbie Shelton, Alabama; No. 6 Bobby Wyatt, Alabama; No. 8 Trey Mullinax, Alabama; No. 19 Scott Vincent, Virginia; No. 27 Gavin Green, New Mexico; No. 29 Trevor Cone, Virginia Tech; No. 35 Corey Whitsett, Alabama; No. 41 Toni Hakula, Texas; No. 47 Niclas Carlsson, Auburn.
Lobos in the field: Sophomore Joe Abella, junior Gavin Green, junior Victor Perez, junior Sean Romero, junior Sam Saunders
Live scoring: Golfstat.com
Lobo Regional notes: Click here.
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
The grass you know is better than the grass you don’t.
That’s not exactly a golf idiom, but it’s appropriate this week for the University of New Mexico men’s golf team.
The No. 22 Lobos are competing in the 14-team NCAA Auburn Regional, which takes place Thursday-Saturday in Auburn, Ala. The top five teams advance to the NCAA Championships in Hutchinson, Kansas from May 23-28.
New Mexico is making its 24th appearance in an NCAA regional since the regional format started in 1989 -- a span of 26 years. UNM has advanced to the NCAA Championship 16 times.
None of the Lobos have played on the course at the Auburn University Club, prior to today’s practice round, which would seemingly put UNM at a disadvantage, especially against the likes of No. 1 Alabama, No. 21 Auburn and Alabama State, who are among the teams competing.
“The big thing is grass is different; it’s Bermuda grass,” Lobo coach Glen Millican said, comparing the playing surface to the blue grass on UNM’s Championship Course. “Chipping and putting are different than what you see out west. The lies you get in the fairway play a little bit thinner: the ball doesn’t sit up quite as nice when you’re chipping it around the greens or the fairway.
“The rough is different – it’s not as high as here but it’s less predictable. On our course, we have rough that you know what the ball is going to do. If it’s sitting down, you know you’re going to have to smoke it to get it out of there. But (in Auburn), if it sits down, it can come out dead or sometimes it can cut. If it’s sitting up, it can come out normal or it can fly.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that the Lobos aren’t prepared.
UNM played at the Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windermere, Fla., in October and in Augusta, Ga., in March – two courses also located in the South that has the same grass type.
The Lobos may not have seen the Auburn course, but they’ve seen and played on the same type of grass.
“There are two things behind our scheduling philosophy,” Millican said. “We want to play the best teams on the best golf courses, but within that we want to spread ourselves around the country so if we get sent off to a regional, we’ll have already played in similar conditions.
“We’ve done what we can to prepare for that event already. We’ve played in Georgia and Florida earlier this year so we’ve played on that grass before.”
The Lobos also have won a regional before – three, in fact, in the program’s history and the most recent coming last year at the NCAA Columbia Regional.
“The thing about last year’s team is that they were kind of fueled the whole year by what happened at regionals in 2012 when they missed qualifying for nationals by one stroke,” Millican said. “Obviously, this year’s team doesn’t have that pushing them, but it does have two players who gained experience in Gavin Green and Victor Perez who were part of last year’s team. And the rest of the team saw that it could be done.”
Green is the reigning Mountain West champion and could be one of the golfers to watch entering the Auburn Regional, based on his No. 27 national ranking. He said UNM’s victory at the conference championship last week has brought a sense of déjà vu that he hopes will continue this week.
“It really feels similar, the way last year’s team started off by winning conference and then this year’s team doing that, too,” he said. “We’ve got to take this one step at a time and find a way to get into the top five and go to nationals. But if we can do that, anything can happen at nationals.”
Along with veterans Green and Perez, the Lobos have juniors Sean Romero and Sam Saunders and sophomore Joe Abella in the lineup.
Saunders won a U.S. Open qualifier at Twin Warriors Golf Course last week with a 3-under 68. Romero finished tied for seventh at the MW Championship and played on the 2012 team that just missed out on nationals.
Abella did not play in the MW Championship but had top-20 finishes in his last two events and is third on the team in stroke average at 73.15 per round.
Millican said the team doesn’t have to try to do anything spectacular to qualify for nationals, that their “good” play is good enough to compete with the other teams in the regional.
If everybody plays their own game, we’ll be fine,” he said. “We can compete with anyone. We don’t have to win the golf tournament on every single shot. If they handle themselves the way they did in Tucson for the MW Championship, we’ll be just fine.”