Catlin, Lobo Men's Golf Teammates on Island Duty
Feb. 14, 2012
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Communications Director
These days, being John Catlin isn't a bad gig.
In December, the University of New Mexico junior golfer earned a spot in the Patriot All-America, an invitation-only event that featured some of the best collegiate golfers in the nation and honored fallen members of the United States Armed Forces.
In January, Catlin won his first collegiate tournament at the Arizona Intercollegiate in Tucson and subsequently earned a spot on CollegeSports360.com's weekly Primetime Performers men's golf honor roll.
For a February encore? Catlin and his Lobo teammates are in midst of a tropical assignment - the Lobos traveled to Hawaii on Saturday to prepare for the 54-hole John A. Burns Intercollegiate from Wednesday-Friday at the Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, on Oahu.
The 18-team field will feature some of the best teams in the nation, including No. 10 California, No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 15 and Mountain West brethren UNLV and No. 17 Duke.
"It's going to be pretty awesome," Catlin said prior to his departure, laughing when asked whether he was looking forward to the event. "It's probably the funnest trip we do all year."
Catlin has been having fun playing golf all year. His worst finish in six tournaments going back to the fall is a tie for 11th - ironically, at the UNM-hosted William H. Tucker Intercollegiate from Sept. 30-Oct. 1. He's current ranked No. 18 in the latest Golfweek.com/Sagarin ratings. Catlin is trying to get into the top-10 to earn All-America status this year, a goal that might've sounded far-fetched when the school-year started - even to Catlin.
"I'm somewhat surprised at how I've played," he said. "I've been a decent college player, but I wasn't anything special. To come out and play well this year has been a nice surprise. It definitely has given me some positive energy moving forward."
Lobo coach Glen Millican said he's not surprised by Catlin's play, but is impressed nonetheless.
"I'm somewhat surprised at how I've played. I've been a decent college player, but I wasn't anything special. To come out and play well this year has been a nice surprise. It definitely has given me some positive energy moving forward."
-- John Catlin, Lobo junior golfer
"John's done a great job playing his own game," Millican said. "He's been real sharp all year. (In Arizona), he didn't make many mistakes at all, and he was able to capitalize."
The same could be said for a UNM team few thought would play so well through its first six events. The Lobos have not finished lower than fifth during its first six tournaments of year. The spring season started off with New Mexico's third-place team finish at the Arizona Intercollegiate.
"We had several guys who kept up with their game over the break," Millican said. "That allowed us to get off to a nice start in Arizona."
Led by Catlin's bogey-free 67, the Lobos had the low final round in Tucson, shooting an 8-under 284. Their first-round 289, however, put them in a 17-stroke hole that was too big to overcome.
Last week's event was similar to UNM's performance at the 2011 John A. Burns Intercollegiate. The Lobos were 11th after two rounds in Hawaii but shot a school-record, 20-under 268 to zoom up to fourth place.
UNM's record-breaking round came on the Fazio Course at the Turtle Bay Resort - after playing the first two rounds on the Palmer Course. Unfortunately for this year's Lobo squad, all three rounds are on the Palmer course.
Then again, New Mexico might not be missing all that much not playing the Fazio course. Three of the Lobos on the trip are true freshmen who are playing the course for the first time in Victor Perez, Gavin Green and Sean Romero.
"We've had some good freshmen come in and they've stepped up and played well," Catlin said.
Perez and Green both have held spots on the team since the fall; Romero has emerged since the break to earn a spot.
"Sean's come in and played real solid since we came back from break," Millican said. "We feel like he's the right guy to be in the lineup."
So is junior James Erkenbeck, No. 67 in the Golfweek.com/Sagarin ratings. Erkenbeck, who redshirted last year, has four top-10 and two top-20 finishes in six events, capped by his second-place performance at the Tucker.
"James has been playing great golf," Millican said. "His game has come along nicely."
Millican said he has been impressed with the focus his entire team has displayed so far this season - a focus that shouldn't be altered by a little trip to paradise.
"This group likes to play golf," the coach said. "Yeah, there's a lot to see and do in Hawaii, but these guys like to compete. They want to make sure everything's OK with their games. I don't see us having any problem being ready to play."
"You'll get a little sidetracked by the beauty," he said, "but we've all played enough golf to know how to focus and be in the moment and hit the shot to the best of our abilities, and hopefully win the tournament."
Besides, Catlin kind of likes the roll he's on. It took him three years to get his first collegiate win; he's well-versed on how tough it is to get to the top.
"I've won some tournaments before," he said, "but it's harder to win at this level because the players are a lot better. I just want to go out there and play well. You always want to win, but you just go out and play. if you win, great, if not, you try to learn what you can do next time to try to play a little better."