Erkenbeck Ties For No. 1 Spot; Lobos Tie For Runner-Up Honors

March 10, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Men's Golf - At Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters - Las Vegas

Individual Leaders: 1 (tie)- James Erkenbeck, New Mexico, 212; Michael Kim, California, 212; Patrick Rodgers, Stanford, 212; Cory Whitsett, Alabama, 212. (Rodgers won individual trophy in a playoff).
Team Leaders: 1- California, 856. 2- New Mexico, 869. 2 (tie): Alabama, 869. 4- UCLA, 870. 5. Stanford, 876.

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The New Mexico Lobos went to Las Vegas with the same intentions as most Vegas' visitors - to leave a winner. However, when you are in a golf tournament with the top-ranked California Bears, you can't really be disappointed by 50/50 split when it comes to titles.

The Lobos leave Vegas as runners-up to California -- a distinction shared with Alabama as both squads finished 13 shots behind the talented Bears.

The Lobos also share individual honors as UNM's James Erkenbeck tied California's Michael Kim, Alabama's Cory Whitsett and Stanford's Patrick Rodgers with identical 54-hole cards of 212. The official NCAA individual results are a four-way tie, but the four golfers went into a playoff to determine the unofficial winner. Rodgers won the playoff on the first hole with a birdie.

Erkenbeck finished Sunday with a solid one-under par 71 and had to sit back to see if Kim would finish his late charge at the individual title. Kim made a gallant run and carded a 3-under 69. After 18 holes, Kim was seven shots behind Erkenbeck, eight shots behind Whitsett and 10 shots behind Stanford's Rodgers. Kim had a 67 on Saturday.

"It was a great tournament for James," said UNM Coach Glen Mulligan. "He had a couple of rough holes on the back nine, but came in with three straight pars.

"This was an unbelievable field of teams and individuals. I also was proud of the way the guys finished. We posted a 288 (Sunday) which was three shots better than Cal and tied for the best round of the day."

The Lobos and Erkenbeck were in a see-saw battle over the final 18 holes. UNM was in a hunt with Alabama for the No. 2 spot and had to wait to see if Alabama would catch them - or pass them. Alabama pulled in with a final-round card of 292 and into the tie with UNM.

Erkenbeck had a hot front nine accented by two birdies and an eagle three on the par-5, 592-yard ninth hole. His rough stretch on the back nine was a bogy five on No. 14 and a double-bogey on No. 15. He closed with three pars to card his 71.

Erkenbeck's double-bogey was a result of a one-shot penalty for slow play.

"His group got timed for slow play and he got a one-shot penalty," said Millican. "It was unfortunate. He really made a bogey on that hole, but got the penalty shot. He hung in there after that and had some putts to win, but they didn't fall."

Kim was steady throughout the round with three birdies and no bogeys en route to his 69. Whitsett was up and down with three bogeys and four birdies. Rodgers started his round with a double-bogey six and then closed with two birdies and a bogey on his final 17 holes.

It was a solid tournament and an impressive finish for the Lobos competing in a 15-team field in which every team was ranked in the Golfweek.com/Sagarin rankings.

"Our guys did a great job getting the low round today against this type of field on a great course," said Millican. "It was a great job to shoot a number like that. And James was phenomenal from start to finish. That might have been the best performance I've seen from him as a Lobo."

The No. 5 ranked Lobos finished a stroke ahead of No. 2 UCLA and No. 4 ranked Texas skidded into the No. 12th team spot with a 901 - 32 shots behind New Mexico.

Erkenbeck threw out a sizzling 69 in the first round and backed that scored with a 72 on Saturday to put him in position for a run at individual honors.

UNM's Gavin Green got better with every round as he went 76-73-67 to card a 54-hole 216 and finished in the No. 4 spot. Benjamin Bauch went 75-73-71--213 to finish fifth. John Catlin's card read 71-78-76--225, and Victor Perez went 80-72-75--225.

The Lobos also improved their team score each day going 291, 290 and 288 on Sunday for an 869 team total.

The problem with going against Cal is that a good score like UNM turned in on Saturday (290) didn't hold up to California's 280. You can shoot good golf against the Bears and still lose ground. The Lobos shot good golf on Sunday and made up three shots on Cal.

The Lobos trailed the Bears by 16 shots going into Sunday's final round. Stanford was 11 shots off the pace looking at the final 18 holes. The Cardinal stumbled to a 300 card on Sunday.