Joe Abella
Joe Abella
Lobo Men's Golf: 'Stings To Miss It By a Stroke'
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  05/17/2014

NCAA MEN’S GOLF AUBURN REGIONAL (updated with quotes 7:15 p.m.)

Team results (Top five qualify for NCAA Championship): 1 Alabama, 287-284-281=853. -11; 2 Kennesaw State 297-291-287=875, +11; 3 Auburn, 294-292-292=878, +14; 4. Virginia Tech, 301-291-290=882, +18; 5 Texas 293-300-291=884 , +20
6 New Mexico 302-295-288=885 +21; T7 BYU 299-294-293=886, +22; T7 North Carolina-Greensboro (UNCG), 298-296-292=886, +22; T9. Louisville 297-305-286=888, +24; T9 UC-Davis, 300-304-284=888, +24; 11 Sam Houston State, 300-303-286=889, +25; 12. Colorado 296-299-306=901, +37; 13. Alabama State, 311-303-299=913, +49; 14. St. John’s 315-300-302=918, +54.

Individual results: 1 Marco Iten, Austin Peay State (individual) 71-70-67=208, -7; 2 Cory Whitsett, Alabama, 71-69-72=212, -4; T3 Tom Lovelady, Alabama, 72-71-70=213, -3; T3 Scott Vincent, Virginia Tech 73-70-70=213, -3 ; T3 Kevin Klotz, Houston 76-71-66=213, -3; 6 Beau Hossler, Texas 71-71-72=214, -2; T7 Trey Mullinax 71-73-71=215, -1; T7 Niclas Carlsson, Auburn, 70-72-73=215, -1; T7 Robin Sciot-Segrist, Louisville, 69-76-70=215, -1; T7 Luke Vivolo, UC Davis, 71-75-69=215, -1;

Lobo results: T11 Joe Abella 77-70-69=216, E; T19 Gavin Green, 76-71-73=220, +6; T24 Sam Saunders 73-75-73=221, +5; T57 Victor Perez 76-79-75=230, +14; T64 Sean Romero 81-81-73=235, +19

By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications

In Auburn, Ala., the University of New Mexico men’s golf team is developing a disturbing trend.

For the third time since 2009, the Lobos finished one stroke out of qualifying for the NCAA Championship, shooting a 21-over 897 to take sixth place at the NCAA Auburn Regional.

UNM, ranked 22nd in the country, was great for the final seven holes on a day it had to great for 18 and finished one stroke behind fifth-place Texas. The top five teams advance to next week’s championship tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

"We never gaver up; that shows the character of this golf team," coach Glen Milican said. "But this stings to miss it by a stroke." 

The Lobos posted an even-par 288 on Saturday – their best round of the tournament – thanks to their play on hole Nos. 3-9, which were their last seven on the course. The team combined to shoot 9 under par during that stretch to cap a furious rally from ninth place.

But the 13th-ranked Longhorns, coached by former UNM coach John Fields, played the final seven holes at 1 over, which was just enough to squeeze by the Lobos. Texas' Beau Hossler had to make a six-foot bogey putt to secure fifth place on the last hole and drained it.

In 2009, New Mexico finished one stroke behind fifth-place USC. In 2012, Iowa State was one stroke better than UNM for fifth.

"As frustrating as that can be, you've got to do some good things to put yourself in that position to be there at the end of a regional," Millican said. "It's not a fun feeling; we wanted to go to Kansas.

"It's not like we were in third and gave it away; we did everything we could. We just came up short."

The hard-luck Lobos at least can look forward to 2014-15 with great confidence, with all five players from the regional – along with true freshman Andrej Bevins who did not play this week – returning.

Sophomore Joe had the third best score over the final 36 holes on the Auburn University Club. Abella shot 5-under on Friday and Saturday combined to tie for 11th place individually at even-par 216. He was tied for 46th after the first day with his opening-round score of 5-over 77. Individual medalist Marco Iten  of Austin Peay State, who won at 8-under 208, and Sam Houston State’s Kevin Klotz (tied for fourth at 3-under 213) both shot 7-under during the last two rounds.

"Joe really turned into a fighter this year," Millican said. "His last two rounds were as big as anybody shot for us all year. The way he accepted the challenge of playing in regionals after not playing in the conference tournament -- he stepped up big-time."

No. 1 Alabama won the Auburn Regional in dominating fashion, finishing as the only team to shoot below par all three rounds and scoring a 11-under 853 for a 22-stroke victory over second-place Kennesaw State (11-over 875). No. 21 Auburn finished third on its home course at 14-over 8787, followed by No. 14 Virginia Tech (18-over 882) and Texas (20-over 884).

Seven teams were within five strokes of fifth place.

Lobos Sean Romero and Sam Saunders also posted their best scores of the regional, both shooting 1-over 73s. Romero was eight strokes better than his matching 81s on Thursday and Friday. He finished at 19-over 235 for a tie for 64th. Saunders was 4-over through his first five holes, but four straight birdies on the back nine helped move him back to a tie for 24th at 5-over 221.

UNM’s veterans, Gavin Green and Victor Perez, couldn’t provide the lift the team needed to get itself into contention. Green also made a charge, birdieing three of his last four holes to finish with a 1-over 73 Saturday and a 4-over 220 to tie for 19th

Perez’s 3-over 75 was his best round of the tournament, but that was good enough only to give him a tie for 57th with a 14-over 230.

"Nobody did anything wrong; everyone fought as hard as they could," Millican said. "When we started off slowly on Thursday, we were chasing everyone the whole way. Unfortunately, we never climbed over the hump."

Last year’s Lobo team used its 2012 regional finish to propel it to a fifth-place finish at last year’s NCAA Championship. The hope is that the 2014 team now has the same motivation in its back pocket for 2015.

Millican called this year's narrow miss and opportunity for the future.

"Everyone has a chance this summer to work on their game," he said. "They can transform themselves from a good team to a great time. We have a lot of work to do to make that happen, but we have to study the lessons we learned this year and apply them toward next season.

"If we can learn from it and work hard, this team has a chance to do some special things next season.