Erkenbeck's Start Keeps Lobo Golf Men Near NCAA Regional Cutoff

May 17, 2012

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In Athens, Ga., University of New Mexico junior James Erkenbeck showed his postseason form on Thursday morning. Now, he just needs his teammates to follow suit.

Erkenbeck fired a 4-under-par 67 to tie for fifth place individually, but the 16th-ranked Lobos are tied for ninth at the 13-team Athens Regional men’s golf tournament with a 1-over 285.

The Lobos trail No. 2 Alabama by 16 strokes after the first round on the University of Georgia Golf Course, but more importantly are three strokes behind co-fifth-place teams Houston and North Carolina-Wilmington. The top five teams in the 13-team field will advance to the NCAA Championship in Pacific Palisades, Calif., beginning May 29.

“It’s always great to see James play well,” UNM coach Glen Millican said, “and his score was a big one for us today. It kept us in position to move up where we want to be by the end of the tournament.

Erkenbeck had the lead through the first nine holes of the round after birdies on Nos. 5, 6 and 7. His back nine included two birdies and two bogeys.

North Florida’s Kevin Aylwin is the individual leader with a 6-under 65 to help his team to a second-place performance at 13-under 271 and two strikes behind Alabama’s 269. East Carolina is third at 8-under 276, followed by host Georgia (4-under 280). Houston and UNCW both shot 2-under 282s.

“We didn’t play our best round,” Millican said, “but it wasn’t our worst, either. We’re not that many out of the top five.”

Lobo junior John Catlin is tied for 26th in the 75-player field with an even-par 71. His birdie on No. 17 erased a bogey early during the round.

“John played a real solid round,” Millican said. “He hit a lot of balls to 20 feet of the hole, but the greens are real undulating and unless you’re on the right part of the green, you’re going to have a lot of difficult putts.

Freshman Sean Romero is tied for 43rd with a 2-over 73, and fellow freshmen Gavin Green and Victor Perez are 3-over with an opening-round 74.

Green was working a low score until he ran into bad luck at No. 13 with two shots landing in the water and giving him a quadruple bogey. Green, however, righted himself and played the final five holes at 1 under.

“I was very impressed with the way Gavin finished the round,” Millican said. “I’m sure he’s disappointed and wished he would’ve had No. 13 back, but he came back and finished strong.”

UNM is trying to qualify for the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2007.

The Lobos are back on the course for the second round at 6:40 a.m., Mountain Time, but starting on the 10th hole.