Lobo Golf Men Are Masters at 3M Augusta
In Augusta, Ga., the PGA Tour's first major tournament is still a few days away, but that didn't stop the Lobos from making themselves "Masters" on Sunday.
The 25th-ranked University of New Mexico men's golf team needed – and received – a collective effort to score its most impressive victory of the year as it won the 3M Augusta Invitational on Sunday.
Four Lobos shot in red numbers to help the team record an 8-under 280 for a 54-hole total 838 (277-281-280), a 26-under score that topped a 15-team field that included the likes of No. 2 Illinois and No. 3 Texas.
"We knew going in that it was going to take some great golf to have a chance today," coach Glen Millican said. "Nobody went out and had a career tournament; our guys went out and played their own games and played well. It was huge for us to get a lead to start the back nine, and they did a great job to finish it off."
The second-ranked Illini were second at 23-under 841. No. 31 Georgia, thanks in large part to an 8-under 64 by individual medalist Lee McCoy, finished third with a 22-under 842., followed by the third-ranked Longhorns at 20-under 844. No. 35 Houston was fifth at 17-under 847.
The victory also will go down as a historic one for UNM and Millican. The 838 total is the eighth lowest score in school history – eight strokes off the all-time low of 830, accomplished twice in 2005 and 2006.
More importantly, the win marked the 28th career tournament win for Millican, UNM's 14th-year head coach – tying him with Dick McGuire (1954-1976) as the Lobos' winningest coach.
"Coach McGuire is bigger than anyone who's followed him here," Millican said. "He's a Hall of Fame coach and a pioneer in the game who did some amazing things that laid the foundation for the rest of us to have success.
"We've just tried to do the best we can to continue what he started."
Senior Gavin Green led the way with a 3-under 69 on Sunday to finish at 7-under 209 for a tie for ninth place – eight strokes behind McCoy.
Senior Sam Saunders finished with the best overall score for the Lobos, a 9-under 207 after a 1-under 71 on Sunday, to finish in fifth place.
Senior Sean Romero shot a 2-under 70 during the final round for a 54-hole 212 (4 under) and a tie for 13th. Sophomore Andrej Bevins, who struggled the first two days with a 9-over total, came back with a 1-under 71 on Sunday to finish at 8-over 224 and a tie for 61st.
True freshman Gustavo Morantes shot a 2-over 74, so his round did not count as part of the team score for the final 18 holes. Still, his 2-under 214 was his best score as a Lobo, and he finished tied for 25th.
Senior Victor Perez, who competed as an individual, carded a 4-over 76 on Sunday and finished tied for 64th with a 10-over 226.
"It should be very clear to our guys now that they're capable of doing great things," Millican said. "By no means did we play perfect this week. There are still thing each of our guys need to work on. But now we don't have to talk about going out there with the mindset of playing to win. They've done it; that talk no longer is necessary."
The Lobos capped their spring regular season with one win, three runner-up finishes, a third place and a sixth place in six events.
"Everything that transpired this week, I think, is they culmination of the last four events, where they either started out slow and played great at the finish but had too big a hole to climb, or where they played great the first two rounds iof the San Diego Classic but just didn't finish well.
"They put it all together, really the last two events."
The Lobos will compete in the Red Raider Shootout on April 18 in a four-team, match-play event at the Rawls Course in Lubbock, Texas – site of one of the six NCAA Regional Tournaments this season.
The other three teams will be No. 3 Texas, No. 10 Texas Tech and No. 30 TCU.
UNM then will travel to Tucson, Ariz., for the Mountain West Championship from May 1-3. The Lobos are the two-time defending champions. They then should earn a spot in an NCAA Regional from May 14-16 at a spot to be determined.
From there, the Lobos will try to advance to the NCAA Championships. UNM advanced to the national tournament in 2012-13 and finished fifth. They qualified for the final-eight match play portion and lost to eventual national champion Alabama in the quarterfinals.
In three of the last six years, however, UNM has missed qualifying for the NCAA Championship by one stroke.