LOBO MEN’S GOLF
Up next: 3M Augusta Invitational, Forest Hills Golf Club
Days: Saturday (36 holes) and Sunday (18 holes)
Scheduled tee times: 6:30 a.m. MT shotgun start
Participating teams: No. 7 Illinois, No. 8 Houston, No. 9 Central Florida, No. 15 Virginia Tech, No. 18 Texas, No. 19 South Carolina, No. 21 New Mexico, No. 24 Clemson, No. 29 Baylor, No. 39 Tennessee; No. 45 TCU; No. 46 Purdue; Coastal Carolina, host GRU Augusta, USC Aiken (S.C.).
Participating Lobos: Sophomore Joe Abella, junior Gavin Green, junior Victor Perez, junior Sean Romero, junior Sam Saunders.
Live stats: Golfstat.com
The 21st-ranked University of New Mexico men’s golf team has answered most of the questions it faced coming into the 2013-14 season.
As the Lobos prepare for their final regular-season tournament Saturday and Sunday at the 3M Augusta Invitational, coach Glen Millican likes the way his team has navigated through the season and is positioned going into the finals two months of the season.
UNM is coming off a win at last month’s Lone Start Invitational, its third victory of the season and first of the spring. Junior Gavin Green won the event with a 6-under 210, but four other Lobos also finished within four strokes of Green.
That’s pretty good team golf.
“There were question marks coming into this year,” Millican said. “We lost three of our top five guys from last year’s team (that finished fifth in the NCAA Championships). A lot of those questions have been answered; we have had four guys step in and really give us some solid golf all year.”
Juniors Sean Romero and Sam Saunders have emerged in the spring as starting-lineup material and sophomore Joe Abella also has picked up his play to challenge true freshman Andrej Bevins for the final spot. And Bevins already has a tournament win under his belt, tying Green for medalist honors at the 2013 William H. Tucker Intercollegiate.
Green, meanwhile, found his game during the final round of the Lone Star Invitational, shooting a 6-under 66 and coming back from a seven-stroke deficit to win the tournament.
“He finally got rewarded for the kind of golf he’s been playing,” Millican said of Green. “Before the last tournament, he had been playing well but not scoring as well as he could have. You could tell that he felt good what he did in the last round in of the Lone Star. I certainly felt good about it.”
Green and fellow junior Victor Perez, part of last year’s team that advanced to the match-play portion of the NCAA Championships, college golf’s version of the NCAA basketball tournament’s Elite Eight. Millican said he’s counting on their leadership to guide the team through the stretch run of the season.
“They’re aware of what’s coming up for us,” Millican said. “Really, everyone is, but those guys have been through the postseason for a couple of years now, so they know how to prepare.”
A strong showing in Augusta would help. UNM is one of 12 ranked teams in the event, and the team can enhance its resumé for the NCAA Regionals with a positive result.
Regardless, the players will receive a bonus from playing this weekend. Millican said they will be able to participate in a practice round Monday at Augusta National, site of next week’s Masters’ Tournament.
“That’s new and exciting for us,” Millican said. “Hopefully we can take something away that will help us down the road, but’s it’s going to be fun just to be there.”