May 5, 2013
1. UNM 282-281-281=844, 8 under par
T2. UNLV 287-284-281=852, even-par
T2 San Diego State 288-275-289=852, even par
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
TUCSON -- A day after the two-time conference men's golf champion San Diego State made its rally at the 2013 Mountain West Championship, the best team in the league issued its own statement Sunday:
"Cinco de title on Cinco de Mayo!"
The sixth-ranked University of New Mexico seized early control of the final round at the Omni Tucson National Catalina Course and maintained it for a 54-hole, 8-under-par 844 to win the conference crown, its fifth MW championship overall.
"This victory was very rewarding, but it was also a huge relief," UNM coach Glen Millican said. "We came in here as the favorites, and everybody was expecting us to win. So to come through like that was big for us. This also validates our regular season."
"Cinco," the league-best number of MW golf titles the Lobos and 12th-year coach Millican now have in their possession, was just one of the numbers associated with UNM's win.
"Seis" was the final-round under-par score of senior James Erkenbeck. The San Diego native shot a final-round 65, narrowly missing the individual crown. Erkenbeck finished at 6-under 207 (72-70-65), one stroke behind champion Kevin Penner of UNLV (67-72-67), whose birdie on the par-3 17th hole was the difference.
"It would've been the perfect finish," Erkenbeck said of narrowly missing out on the individual title, "but really, I was just trying to hit good shots to help us win."
"Siete" represents the seven-year itch that the Lobos scratched since winning their last Mountain West tournament. UNM last won in 2006, capping off a four-year title run.
"This one was great because it's the first time we won the title on this course," Millican said.
The other UNM MW wins were at Sunriver, Ore.
"Ocho" not only signifies the Lobos' score under par (282-281-281=844) for the event, but it also was the margin of victory over runners-up UNLV (287-284-281=852) and San Diego State (288-275-289=852). New Mexico and San Diego State entered the day tied at 5 under.
"We got it going on the back nine," senior John Catlin said, "and having a pretty big lead coming down the stretch was nice. It made it a lot better than it coming down to the last hole where anything could happen."
And to finish UNM's numbers statement Sunday, the win was its fourth of the season, which was the team's most since 2004-05. The Lobos captured their 22nd conference championship since they first shared the Border Conference championship in 1948.
The victory marked Millican's 21st tournament win as a head coach. He trails Dick McGuire by seven for the all-time UNM lead in wins.
The Lobos watched their lead grow on the front nine Sunday by shooting even-par as a team and watching the Aztecs battle the course to a 4-over start. UNLV put itself in contention by shooting 4 under.
UNM took off during the back nine, thanks in large part to Erkenbeck. The senior birdied seven of his last 11 holes and five of his last nine, taking the lead after his birdie on No. 16. His 65 was the low round during the event.
Catlin also got hot, birdieing four of his first six holes on the back nine (with a bogey on No. 12). Catlin was as low as 4 under, then coasted to the finish with 1-under 212 (74-67-71) to tie for sixth place.
"I putted a lot better the last two days," Catlin said, "and a lot of my confidence comes from making putts. I guess you could say that I work from the green backward."
Sophomore Gavin Green, who briefly led during rounds 2 and 3, was 2-under on the back nine Sunday. He finished third in the event at 4-under 209.
"What broke it for us was the way James, John and Gavin played from holes 10 to 16," Millican said. "We went from clinging to a lead to being ahead by a lot, and it was just a great performance."
Sophomore Victor Perez, the tournament leader after the first round with a 5-under 66, finished tied 13th after back-to-back 75s in the second and third rounds that left him at 3 over.
Perez, Erkenbeck and Green all led or shared the lead at some point in the tournament, and Catlin pulled to second during a portion of Sunday's round.
"This team has so many weapons," Catlin said. "I've made that statement in the past, but this team is the most dangerous one I've been on."
"This team has so many weapons. I've made that statement in the past, but this team is the most dangerous one I've been on."
John Catlin, Lobo senior golfer
Only senior Benjamin Bauch struggled, shooting 17 over par to finish tied for 35th in the 45-player field (75-75-80=230).
The Lobos' Cinco de Mayo celebration, however, was a little muted as they returned to Albuquerque on Sunday night. Catlin and Perez will play in U.S. Open qualifiers today, and Erkenbeck will fly back to Tucson to play in a U.S. Open qualifier Wednesday.
The student-athletes also have finals this week at school.
Then there's the matter of some more unfinished business. UNM now must await the announcement of where it will play in the NCAA Regionals. Six regionals will take place May 16-18, with 81 teams selected. The top five teams in each of the six regionals will advance to the NCAA Championships May 28-June 2 in Alpharetta, Ga.
Last year, the Lobos finished sixth in the Southeast Regional, missing out on the top five by a single stroke.
That is also part of the reason UNM didn't go all out with the celebration Sunday.
"We came into the conference tournament with the expectation that we were going to win," Erkenbeck said. "We'll enjoy this tonight, but my mind will be on regionals tomorrow. So if we qualify there, then ask me how that feels."
It sounds as if UNM doesn't want to stop at Cinco de titles.