April 12, 2013
Once upon a time, a fourth-place finish in any men’s golf tournament was a proud accomplishment at the University of New Mexico.
But the level of success to which the 2012-13 edition of the Lobos – ranked No. 4 in the land – has performed almost has made fourth place an underwhelming achievement for an event.
“One of our seniors mentioned that when we were getting on the plane to come home from Tempe (Ariz.),” coach Glen Millican said, referring to last weekend’s fourth-place effort at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational. “A couple of years ago, we would’ve been very, very happy with that. But now our guys look at that as a result they want to improve upon.”
UNM will get that chance this weekend at the two-day, 12-team Morris Williams Intercollegiate in Austin, Texas. The tournament marks the close of the regular season for the nationally ranked Lobos.
Eleven of the teams in the field are ranked in Golfweek.com’s Top 50, including host and No. 3 Texas, No. 7 TCU, No. 14 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Kent State and defending ASU Thunderbird champion and No. 30 UNLV.
The Lobos will use the same starting lineup they’ve had for most of the season. Seniors Benjamin Bauch, John Catlin and James Erkenbeck and sophomores Gavin Green and Victor Perez had boasted seven consecutive top-two finishes before the ASU Thunderbird Invitational.
Sophomore Sean Romero will compete as an individual for UNM.
While Millican said the team did discuss how it played, briefly, after the tournament ended, he denied having to introduce any “bounce-back” rhetoric to his charges.
“We don’t feel we played bad in Tempe or about finishing fourth,” Millican said. “We know we could’ve played a little bit better. That’s the thing about our players; we don’t have to tell them what is or isn’t good. They’re harder on themselves than we are as coaches.”
That’s why it’s so important, Millican added, for the Lobos to keep the same routine they’ve done all year as they enter the most important part of their season.
“Before a tournament, we never talk about winning or what we should try to learn from it,” he said. “We always just talk about playing as well as we can that day. That’s the only thing we can control.”
Nevertheless, the Lobos are in a good position from a learning curve factor as they prepare for the Mountain West Championships, NCAA Regionals and, perhaps, the NCAA Championships next month.
Millican said the MW tournament, which will take place at the OMNI Tucson National Resort in Tucson, will be a course in which the scoring conditions are more favorable – a course similar to the ASU Thunderbird Invitational and the exact same course in which UNM won the Don Puckette National Invitational Tournament in March.
The Morris Williams Intercollegiate, at the University of Texas Golf Club, will be a more challenging course, in which par is an excellent score. Those conditions will be similar to whichever NCAA Regional plays host to the Lobos.
“But a lot of what you learn depends on how you play,” Millican said. “The better you play, the more you learn.”
The Morris Williams Intercollegiate takes place with 36 holes Saturday with a 7:15 a.m. MT shotgun start and 18 holes Sunday with a 7 a.m.-8:39 a.m. split-tee start.