Lobo Golf Men Seek 2nd Straight Title As It Visits Hawai'i
Feb. 18, 2013
The University of New Mexico men's golf team can relieve an eight-year itch this week, and senior John Catlin could be the player with back-scratcher.
The Lobos, Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, in the latest Golfweek.com/Sagarin and Golfstat.com polls, respectively, will try to win back-to-back team tournaments as they travel to Kahuku, Hawaii to play in the John Burns Intercollegiate, which takes place Wednesday-Friday.
New Mexico had been No. 3 in the Golfweek.com/Sagarin poll after winning the Arizona Intercollegiate at the end of January, but Washington snuck ahead the Lobos for the third spot after forcing a sudden-death playoff with UCLA (that UCLA eventually won) at the Ameri Ari Invitational in Waikoloa, Hawai'i on Feb. 8.
UNM is looking for consecutive victories for the first time since 2005 when it won - ironically enough - the Arizona Intercollegiate and the John Burns Intercollegiate.
"Wouldn't it be nice to repeat that feat?" coach Glen Millican said when he learned of the last time the Lobos went back-to-back. "That'd be a neat trick."
For that to happen, UNM must defeat a 16-team field that includes No. 1-ranked California.
Been there - the Lobos beat the Bears at the Arizona Intercollegiate.
New Mexico's players also must remember that they're on a business trip (much like Bob Davie's Lobo football team was able to accomplish in October).
Done that. Seniors James Erkenbeck and John Catlin, and sophomores Gavin Green, Victor Perez and Sean Romero (Romero is competing as an individual) have experience playing in this tournament. Only senior Ben Bauch has not made the weeklong trip previously with the Lobos.
UNM also has been first or second in its last four tournaments. Each of the five members on the New Mexico squad has elevated his game since last season - with the possible exception of Catlin.
"All of us are playing better," Catlin said of the team's recent success. "Well, except me."
Last year at this time, Catlin was the one coming off a victory, capturing the Arizona Intercollegiate individual title. He was in the Top 25 in the Golfweek.com/Sagarin individual rankings and had a scoring average just a fraction above 70 strokes per round.
This season, Catlin's scoring average is 72.52, and though he does have a third-place finish on his 2012-13 resume, he has only two top-20 results in six UNM events.
The difference, the senior from Carmichael, Calif., said, is the amount of pressure he's putting on himself this year compared to last.
He put more on himself last year.
"It's funny when you think about it," he said. "The team we have is just better top to bottom than it was last year. So you know you don't have to go out and shoot a really low round for the team to win.
"Last year, I thought I had to shoot low. That was kind of my mindset, and I almost liked it better. I felt like I was the leader of the team. It's a mental state I'm trying to get back to. I think I'm getting close to it."
Millican said he doesn't see any difference in Catlin's play or his approach to the game and thinks Catlin can revert to his 2011-12 form with a few more breaks.
"Last year, John had to play well for us to have a chance, and he really answered that call," Millican said. "He was our only predictable guy for a lot of the season. I think John is doing just fine. It doesn't take a lot to turn a 74 into a 71 or a 71 into a 69. He's still playing the same way."
Currently, senior James Erkenbeck is the resident Lobo in the Golfweek.com Top 25 individual rankings, checking in at No. 14. Sophomores Gavin Green (No. 36) and Victor Perez (No. 41) also are in the top 50. Their consistency has been vital to UNM's success this season.
Green was 11 years old the last time the Lobos won back-to-back tournaments. But he knows the Hawai'i routine and is anxious to get back out on the course.
"(Last week) was really the busy week for me because I was trying to get my homework done so I could just relax in Hawai'i, play and have fun."
The Lobos will have had four days on the island before the tournament starts, but their success this season has given them a blueprint for preparation.
"The message (from the coaches) has been consistent," said Green, who won the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate in September. "You really just have to play your own game and not try to do too much. Of course, confidence has a lot to do with it. I know I have a lot more confidence after I won."
The Lobos already are proving to be a dangerous team this season. If Catlin can reconnect with his 2011-12 form, who knows how far the collective confidence can take this group?