Lobo Golf Men Out To Prove Themselves as Masters
March 6, 2013
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - All the hard work and positive results the University of New Mexico men's golf team put in during the 2011-12 season isn't exactly culminating into this weekend's event, but the invitation to the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters isn't a bad fringe benefit.
The Lobos, ranked fifth in the country in latest versions of both the Golfweek.com/Sagarin and Golfstat.com polls, will get another measure of their standing on a national level when they compete in the 54-hole event at the Southern Highlands Golf Club Friday-Sunday.
All 15 teams in the field are ranked in the top 50, including eight of the top-10 ranked teams in the Golfweek.com/Sagarin poll. No. 1 California, No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Alabama are among the participants.
Additionally, 28 of the top-50 players on Golfweek.com's individual rankings are playing in the aptly named Collegiate Masters (three are Lobos--No. 20 James Erkenbeck, No. 35 Gavin Green and No. 46 Victor Perez.
"This is definitely a tournament you want to get invited to - for a lot of reasons," coach Glen Millican said. "The course is as good as it gets, and it's an event that you have to play your way into."
The Lobos certainly did that with their 2011-12 performance--they finished in the top five in 12 of their 14 events (with one victory and four second-place results) and were ranked in the top 25 for almost the entire season.
UNM has picked up in 2012-13 where it left off last year, finishing in the top five in six of seven tournaments, including two wins and three runner-up efforts--all in its last five events.
"I think we've definitely taken the next step as far as growing as a team," Millican said. "This year, we've played better collectively on better courses and against better competition. Our goal remains to continue to get better in each event we play."
The Lobos will send their usual suspects to the Collegiate Masters--seniors Benjamin Bauch, John Catlin and Erkenbeck, and sophomores Green and Perez. It's a lineup the team has used most often in the last two seasons.
"These guys have learned how to play their own games and just control what they can control," Milican said. "They feel like if they play well, they're going to have a chance to win any tournament they play.
"This weekend, there will be a lot of great teams and a lot of great golfers. There's nothing you can do about the way the other teams play, so you've just got to focus on yourself. Our guys have done a pretty good job of that."
UNM twice has played in events with a field about as strong as the one this weekend. It finished seventh among 15 top-50 teams (14 ranked in the Top 25) at the Golfweek Preview in Alpharetta, Ga., in early September, and second among 15 top-50 teams (nine ranked in the Top 25) at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational in Windermere, Fla., in late October.
Millican's hope is that the constant competition against the country's best team will prepare the Lobos for the Mountain West tournament, NCAA Regionals and beyond that are approaching in May.
"Playing in these fields doesn't guarantee better play," Millican said, "but at least they'll have the experience of playing against those teams. That definitely helps."
The tournament will feature 18 holes of golf each day with tee times off the Nos. 1 and 10 holes at 9 a.m. Mountain Time (8 a.m. Pacific Time). The four low scores will comprise each team's daily total. A sudden death playoff will break team and individual ties after 54 holes. Live scoring is available on Golfstat.com.