May 18, 2013
Team Leaderboard: 1. New Mexico (294-293-283=870), 18 over; T2 Auburn (293-293-286=872), South Carolina (288-296-288=872), 20 over; 4. UNLV (292-292-294=878), 26 over; 5. Texas Tech (299-288-292=879), 27 over. Top five advance to the NCAA Championship.
6. Virginia (303-294-285=882), 30 over. 7. Stanford (291-295-298=884), 32 over; 8. Missouri (294-301-291=886), 34 over; T9 Chattanooga304-294-291=889), Charlotte (297-309-293=889), 37 over; 11. San Francisco (297-299-297=893), 41 over; 12. Georgia Southern (298-308-309=915), 63 over; Valparaiso (309-308-310=927), 75 over
Individual Champion: James Erkenbeck, New Mexico, 3-under 210 (72-70-68)
Other Lobo scores: John Catlin, 4-over 217 (75-69-73), tied for ninth; Gavin Green, 6-over 219 (71-78-70), tied for 15th; Victor Perez, 11-over 224 (76-76-72), tied for 37th; Benjamin Bauch, 19-over 159 (81-78-73), tied for 65th
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communication
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The ghosts of NCAA regionals past are gone.
Senior James Erkenbeck and the University of New Mexico men's golf team erased them by winning the NCAA Columbus Regional at The Ohio State Universtiy Golf Club on Saturday.
The fifth-ranked and top-seeded Lobos, who started the day tied for fifth, was the only team to shoot under par in the final round (1-under 283), and they finished at 18-over 870 for the three-day, 54-hole event to defeat No. 19 Auburn and No. 23 South Carolina by two strokes for the championship.
Fellow Mountain West school UNLV finished fourth at 26-over 878, and Texas Tech was fifth at 27-over 879.
"This is an awesome accomplishment for this group of players," said 12th-year coach Glen Millican, who earned his second NCAA regional championship while in charge of the UNM program. "I couldn't be more proud. It's incredible, some of the things they've done this year. Our program has a rich history, and they've done some things that haven't been done here before."
It's UNM's first NCAA regional championship since 2002, and more importantly, it vaulted the Lobos into the NCAA Championship in Alpharetta, Ga., beginning May 28. The top five finishers from each of the NCAA's six regional tournaments advance to the championship.
New Mexico also won both the conference championship and the regional championship in the same year for the first time in its history.
The Lobos missed out of qualifying for nationals in 2009 and 2012, finishing one stroke back in sixth place in both those regionals. Erkenbeck played on both UNM teams.
Erkenbeck, who started the day fourth at even-par 142, put together a bogey-free, 3-under 68 to finish at 3-under 210 (72-70-68) and capture the individual title by four strokes over Auburn's Dominic Bozzelli, Virginia's Denny McCarthy and South Carolina's Matthew NeSmith.
"I didn't do anything special during my round," Erkenbeck said. "I hit my first 10 greens, which helped. But the big thing was that even when I got in trouble, I was still able to get up and down.
"Getting through to the NCAA Championship was the main thing. I don't know how much the individual title meant, but I guess you could say winning today was a form of redemption for us missing out on those other two regionals (by a stroke). For sure, this is the best team I've ever been on, and it might be the best team in Lobo history. Time will tell."
Time spent on the Scarlet course that past few days served the UNM players well on Saturday. All five Lobos posted scores of 73 or lower. They got off to a 6-under start through the front nine, which they said took a lot of pressure off them in their quest to finish fifth or better.
"That was definitely nice," said sophomore Gavin Green, who shot a 1-under 70 to finish at 6-over 219 (71-78-70) and a tie for 15th. "Once we felt like we were going to make it in the top five, that allowed us to play our own games. Winning the tournament was definitely on our minds."
With the course setup making par a good score, Millican said, his team's fast start was critical in the team's outcome.
"Absolutely, that was a huge part of it," Millican said. "Anytime guys can set themselves clear of that sixth-place team, they're going to relax. The back nine can be incredibly stressful for those battling for that fifth spot."
"I guess you could say winning today was a form of redemption for us missing out on those other two regionals (by a stroke). For sure, this is the best team I've ever been on, and it might be the best team in Lobo history. Time will tell."
James Erkenbeck, Lobo senior men's golfer
Erkenbeck agreed. Sort of.
"I don't think there was any relaxing until it was all over," he said.
Senior John Catlin finished tied for ninth in the 75-player event with a 4-over 217 (75-69-73) after posting a 2-over 73 Saturday. Sophomore Victor Perez shot a 1-over 72 for a 54-hole total of 11-over 224 (76-76-72) and a tie for 37th.
Senior Benjamin Bauch, who struggled the first two days, finished with a final-round, 2-over 73 to finish at 19-over 232 and a tie for 65th.
"Ben's round was as important as anything we accomplished today," Millican said. "He didn't play his best golf the first two days, but he's a competitive guy and he just stayed working at it."
The collective difference in UNM's final round was that they had more putts go in, Millican said, but the fact that the Lobos had chances to win just about every tournament it played this season was equally important in the final-round play.
"This group was in this position almost every time it played," said Millican of the Lobos, who have five wins and four runner-up finishes in 13 tournaments in 2012-13. "Obviously, the experience they gained is something that stayed with them. Gavin, John, Victor and Ben just drew from that experience.
"And for James to come out on top, I don't think people realize how special of an accomplishment that is. All the focus is on finishing in the top five, but every team and every player out here are leaving it out on the course on every shot. Nobody here is just working on their game."
Erkenbeck is the first Lobo to win a regional individual title since Michael Letzig at the 2003 regional in Auburn, Wash.
"We'll enjoy this tonight, and then we'll come back home tomorrow and start getting ready for the NCAA Championship," he said. "That is a relief; I didn't want to go my whole career without playing in one."
The NCAA Championship field will consist of 30 teams. The top eight after tournament play will face off in match play to determine a national champion.
Now that UNM has gotten that elusive NCAA Championship bid, does it dare think about what could be next?
"Definitely," Erkenbeck said. "We know if we play well again, we'll have a chance to get to the final eight. If we do that, anything can happen."