Lobo Golf Men, Gavin Green Fight for 3-Peat at Tucker Intercollegiate
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Nobody knew the pressure they've seen.
So for the University of New Mexico men's golf team and senior Gavin Green to capture their third William H. Tucker Intercollegiate team and individual titles on Saturday at the UNM Championship Course was a lot harder than it looked.
The 33rd-ranked Lobos won the team title by 15 strokes, shooting a 7-over 295 for a 54-hole total of 15-under 849 (277-277-295). Texas Tech, the 16th-ranked team in the nation, squeezed past San Diego State for second place with an even-par 864 (283-288-293). The Aztecs shot a 9-over 873 (280-289-304) for the tournament but were 16 over in the final round.
The win made the Lobos the first team to win three straight since Houston did it from 1968-70. Green, who had a one-stroke lead entering the final round, ballooned to as many as 4 over (through the 12th hole) and trailed the Red Raiders' Clement Sordet by one stroke. But Green shot 4 under over his last six holes to become the first player ever to win three Tuckers.
Lobo coach Glen Millican said he thought expectations loomed over the team and Green to win the home event again. To actually put if off took a lot of the weight off their shoulders.
"The course conditions were extremely difficult early on, especially with the wind," said Millican, who captured his 27th career victory to put him one win shy of Dick McGuire's school record of 28 wins. "We got off to a rough start, and there's no worse feeling that losing a lead.
"It's probably more of a relief than excitement that we won it. For Gavin, it's just a great accomplishment. But again, just the pressure on him to win was intense. I know he was thinking about it, and then the way he started off – a double bogey on 3, a bogey on 6 and then 9 and 10 – that was tough. But he kept moving along and turned it around and had just a great finish."
Green admitted the rough start posed a difficult challenge mentally, but his experience in being in the situations before helped him out.
"That was a big part of it," he said. "You just learn how to stop and restart. It's hard, but I was finally able to get it going. It feels great to be the only one to win three Tuckers and the first Lobo to win six tournaments. I just have to try to keep that going through the rest of the season."
Green finished with a 9-under 207 (65-70-72) to beat Sordet and Texas Tech teammate Guillermo Pereira by three strokes. He was the only Lobo to avoid shooting in positive numbers.
Senior Sam Saunders tied for fifth at 2-under 214 (72-68-74). Sophomore Andrej Bevins finished seventh at 1-under 215 (72-68-75) and junior Nelson da Silva Ramos was tied for eighth at even-par 216 (71-71-74).
Senior Victor Perez shot an 8-over 224 (69-79-76) to tie for 33rd and was appreciative that his teammates picked him up.
"I played well the first round, but after that, the other guys really came through and did an awesome job," he said. "It feels good to be part of a team that has won three (Tuckers) in a row, but what really feels good is the energy our team played with and the things we did as a team – rather than it being five individuals who just played well at the same time.
"I think all the things we do as a team on and off the course paid off for us."
Redshirt freshman Andre Garcia was the top play among the field of 17 competing as individuals and finished tied for 17th overall. He shot a 5-over 221 (75-70-76). Senior Sean Romero was at 11-over 227 (72-79-76) to finish tied for 41st with junior Joe Abella (74-72-81) and sophomore Mitch Johnson was 14 over at 230 (75-72-83).
The win was UNM's 10th team title in the last three seasons, and Millican is hoping to use it as a springboard for bigger and better things.
"The pressure to win today was similar to the pressure we had to finish fifth at Auburn last year in the (NCAA) regionals," he said. "So anytime you have that exposure, it helps you. And I hope we learned how quickly scores can change between rounds (after shooting 18 strokes higher in round 3 than in round 2), and you just have to keep grinding."
On Saturday, the grind turned into a payoff. And relief.