2013-14 Lobo Men's Golf Season in Review
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
The 2011-2012 University of New Mexico men’s golf team’s loss was the 2012-13 team’s gain. Coach Glen Millican is hoping history repeats itself.
The 2013-14 Lobo team duplicated the 2011-12 team’s performance at the NCAA Regionals, missing out on a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championship by a single stroke. Five teams in each of six regionals advance to nationals, and UNM was sixth in both those events.
Every starter from that 2011-12 team returned the next season and carried the motivation from the near miss into a fifth-place finish the next season at the NCAA Championship in Alpharetta, Ga.
Every starter from the 2013-14 team returns in 2014-15. The resemblance is not lost on Millican.
Rehashing how close the team was to qualifying for the NCAA Championship “isn’t something that we have to talk about with any of the guys returning,” Millican said. “In fact, you kind of want it to drive you right now because when we start our new season, we can’t focus what happened in the past. That’s what happened with the 2013 team. The experience of what happened this year is going to do nothing but make us better.”
No apologies, however, are necessary for the 2013-14 season. The team successfully defended its Mountain West championship, with three players that were not on last season’s team – juniors Sam Saunders and Sean Romero and true freshman Andrej Bevins.
The four wins the Lobos won this past season tied for the third most in school history, just behind the five wins that the 2004-05 and the 2012-13 teams captured. In fact, the team has put the Lobos in a golden age of golf in one respect in that the nine tournament wins over the last two seasons are a school record.
The victories give Millican 26 career wins in 13 seasons, leaving him just two shy of the school record of 28 set by Dick McGuire from 1954-76.
The Lobos had a pair of All-MW and PING All-West Region honorees in junior Gavin Green and Victor Perez, and Green has a chance to earn All-America honors for the second straight season. He was a third-team member in 2012-13.
Green also tied a school record with four individual tournament wins in one season. Current PGA Tour member Tim Herron was the only Lobo to accomplish the feat previously in 1992-93.
Green’s wins came at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate, where he successfully defended his title, the Western Refining Collegiate All-American – an event consisting of All-Americans from the previous season – the Lone Star Invitational and the Mountain West Championship.
All players who tie for the lead at the end of a collegiate tournament are credited with a victory, but Green went the extra mile in three events that he tied for the title, winning a playoff in all three to take home the individual trophies.
“Gavin won three of the biggest tournament he possibly could have won last season,” Millican says. “That’s a great year for him.”
Bevins tied Green at the Tucker but lost in a playoff. He is the first Lobo freshman since James Erkenbeck to earn a tournament victory.
Millican lauded the play of and improvement over the course of the season by Saunders and Abella. Saunders tied for 10th at the MW Championship and Abella tied for 11th at the NCAA Regional.
UNM’s coach adds he is hopeful to land two or three Academic All-America honors as well.
“You can evaluate this last season in a lot of ways, and you’re going to see it as a great year, any way you look at it,” Millican said. “Of course, we would’ve liked to have played one more week, but to accomplish what our guys did last season is something they should be very proud of.”
At the risk of putting undue pressure on next year’s team, the potential arguably is greater for the Lobos in 2014-15 than it was in 2012-13.
The 2011-12 team that fell just short of the NCAA Championships won only one tournament. The 2012-13 team really had just six players competing for five spots on a weekly basis – Romero, who was a true freshman, battled with senior Ben Bauch for a place alongside Erkenbeck, John Catlin, Green and Perez.
Millican mentioned eight players that could contribute next season, with Green, Perez, Saunders, Romero, Abella, Bevins, sophomore-to-be Mitch Johnson and redshirt freshman-to-be Andre Garcia figuring to be in the mix.
Johnson played in three events this season before injuries slowed his spring season, and Millican said Garcia improved over the season after coming off a wrist injury that forced his redshirt season.
“There are also some guys on our team that we haven’t seen in action (in a tournament), yet,” Millican said. “We have the potential for a lot of depth. So hopefully, they can all push each other along the way so that the five guys that are playing at the end of the year are a little better – even if it’s the same five.”
Millican understands the fickle nature of competition – the UConn Huskies men’s basketball team nearly lost to St. Joseph’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament but went on to win the national championship, as an example – so the best thing he says his team can do now is prepare to put itself in a position to succeed when the opportunity arises.
“There’s not one definitive road map to get to nationals,” Millican said. “You have to have four guys play well at the same time for three days to get through regionals, and then you have to have four guys play well at the same time for three days at nationals to get to match play. A lot of things have to come together.
“All we can do is control the things we can control. Our guys have to compete this summer, work on the weaknesses in their game and work hard in the gym so that they’re better in August than they were in May. Then we can start to work on another good year.”