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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It’s not unusual for a Lobo defense to get tested at home. It is unusual that it’s the Lobo men’s golf team’s defense that will be under the gun.

The University of New Mexico plays host to the 59th annual William H. Tucker Intercollegiate golf tournament at the UNM Championship Course Friday and Saturday.

The Championship Course is a par-72, 7,562-yard course.

The 54-hole event features 16 teams, four of which were ranked in GolfDigest.com’s preseason top 25, five of which advanced to the 2013 NCAA Championship in May and three of those advance to the final eight for match play.

UNM, which is included in each of those groups, also is the defending Tucker champion, having won by 29 stokes last season. The Lobos also have the returning individual medalist in junior Gavin Green, who shot a 7-under 209 for a one-stroke victory in 2012.

“There are a lot of really good teams in this tournament,” 13th-year Lobos coach Glen Millican said. “We’re going to have to be on top of our game to have a chance to win. Being the defending champion, that adds a little pressure to it.”

The Lobos are the top-ranked entrant, according to a GolfDigest.com preseason poll, coming in at No. 10. TCU was No. 12, USC No. 20 and UNLV No. 25. UNM, TCU, UNLV, Arizona State and USC all advanced to the National Championship in Alpharetta, Ga., in May, and the Lobos, Rebels and Sun Devils actually tied for sixth place in stroke play and advanced to the eight-team match-play competition.

“This is going to be a very good test for us,” Millican said. “But it’s our home course, so if we can play like we’re capable, we should be in the mix.”

The Lobos have two tournaments under their belt in 2013-14. They won the season-opening Gopher Invitational in Independence, Minn., and finished fourth among 15 teams at the Golfweek Conference Challenge in Burlington, Iowa.

This UNM team, however, only returns two of the players that contributed to the program’s epic run last season – Green and fellow junior Victor Perez.

It was Green who hit a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18 at last year’s Tucker to give him his first collegiate victory. Millican says he thinks Green could feel added pressure of trying to defend his individual title.

“I’m sure that’s something he’s going to have to deal with,” Millican said. “Both he and Victor have had past success that they want to up to. It’s something they’re going to have to block out and just focus on the present and their own games.”

In fact, the lineup UNM will use to compete in the team portion has a couple of new players that are different from the previous two tournaments. Green, Perez and true freshman Andrej Bevins – all of whom competed in both Lobo events so far this year – will be joined by junior Sam Saunders and sophomore transfer Dylan Healey.

Healey actually competed in this event last year as a member of the Arizona men’s golf team.

“It was very difficult to determine a starting lineup,” Millican said. “We may be a little deeper than we were last year, and so it was good to see some guys step up in qualifying. We’re just trying to find the best combination to give us a chance to win.”

Sophomore Joe Abella, juniors Sean Romero and Collin Ward, redshirt freshman Mitch Johnson and senior Camren Bergman will compete as individuals for the Lobos.

“Our goal every week is to put ourselves in a position to win,” Millican said. “With the event being on our home course, that provides a little extra motivation. We would love to have a great tournament and play well on our home course.”

The 16 teams will field a team of five golfers with the top four scores in each round from each school counting toward that team’s collective score.  The teams will play 36 holes with a shotgun start on Friday and 18 holes with a shotgun start Saturday. The first tee time for both days is 7:45 a.m.

Live scoring will be available on Golfstat.com.


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