The heavy rains in Albuquerque didn’t disrupt the University of New Mexico men’s golf team’s preparation as much as it could have.
The Lobos, coming off a season-opening victory at the Gopher Invitational last weekend, were able to get in just one practice round in preparation for the Golfweek Conference Challenge from Sunday-Tuesday in Burlington, Iowa.
UNM will be one of 15 teams – all from different conferences – to compete on the par-72, 7,301-yard Spirit Hollow Golf Course.
“That actually wasn’t a bad thing for us,” UNM coach Glen Millican said. “It gave our guys a chance to catch up on school work.”
UNM aced its first test on the golf course last week in Independence, Minn. Buoyed by junior Gavin Green, the Lobos were the only team in the 12-team Gopher Invite field to finish under par. The play of the two players new to the UNM lineup encouraged Millican.
True freshman Andrej Bevins tied for 13th in the 64-team field with a 2-over 215. Sophomore Joe Abella shot a 4-over 214 to finish tied for 16th. Both had a single-hole struggles that prevented them from finishing with even better results.
“They both should that they can score for us,” Millican said. “Andrej came out the gate a little shaky in his first collegiate tournament (a triple-bogey on hole No. 6 in the first round) but really played a good tournament.
“Joseph had a really good tournament going but just had one bad hole as he finished (a quadruple-bogey on his final hole of the event). We hope the experience of just being out there and competing will make them better.”
Green and fellow junior Victor Perez are experienced, in terms of playing at the Spirit Hollow Golf Course. Both played as true freshmen in 2011, the Challenge representing their second collegiate tournament.
Perez finished tied for 31st in the 74-team field with a 7-over 223. Green tied for 46th, shooting an 11-over 227.
“Anytime you’ve played a course before, it helps you,” Millican said. “Gavin and Victor were just getting started with their careers themselves. But when you come back to a course you’ve played, you start to remember the shots and how to play the course.”
Junior Sean Romero joins Perez, Green, Abella and Bevins on the Lobos roster – the same one that captured the Gopher Invitational.
“Even though it’s the same lineup, we’re in a good position because there’s more competition for the three spots alongside Gavin and Victor,” Millican said. “We’ve probably got eight players we could take to any tournament, and the scores would not be that different. I think we’re a little deeper than we were last year, and that should help us. The qualifying rounds to see who makes the trip for us are more competitive, and that makes us all better.”
Millican hopes to see the fruits of that competition continue to unfold in Burlington, Iowa. UNM has not won back-to-back tournaments to start the season during his 13-year tenure. It had been 11 years since the Lobos won their first event under Millican, at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate in 2002.
The Lobos will tee off at 8 a.m. on Sunday.