Stevens: Millican's Lobos As Steady & Sure As a Six-Inch Putt

April 19, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Men's Golf --- At The Texas A&M Aggie Invitational

When/Where: Saturday-Sunday - Bryan, Texas

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

This golf stat is really amazing - kind of like back-to-back eagles, or maybe back-to-back holes-in-one.

The New Mexico Lobos have played in 11 golf tournaments and have yet to finish worse than fifth place.

Golfers will tell you that it's difficult to win a golf tournament as a team or as an individual because so many things can go wrong. It's also difficult to roll into 11 NCAA events and roll out each time with a top five finish -- especially when you look at some of the fields, and the courses, that the Lobos have played against in 2011-12.

The UNM results reflect consistency touched by a few dashes of brilliancy - and some birdies, too.

And is Lobo Coach Glen Millican a little surprised at this string of success.

"Well, when you are playing with freshmen in the lineup, you can't always be sure what's going to happen," said the Lobo coach.

What has happened is that Millican's Lobos have established themselves as one of the top teams in the nation despite having three NCAA rookies carrying Lobo clubs: freshmen Victor Perez, Gavin Green and Sean Romero. Millican's lineup also includes juniors John Catlin and James Erkenbeck.

"It helps to have John and James," said Perez. "We are young, but we have two good juniors to steady us. It seems we never have two bad scores in a round." Said Catlin: "We're playing very consistent up and down the lineup and we're playing with a lot of confidence."

The Lobos have one win and four second-place finishes in that impressive string and are looking to keep it rolling this Friday and Saturday at The Texas A&M Aggie Invitational to be held at the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.

The Aggie Invite has a tough field including these ranked squads: No. 1 Texas, No. 10 Oregon, No. 14 Texas A&M, No. 27 Oklahoma State, No. 28 Baylor, No. 32 Oklahoma and No. 46 Texas Tech.

College tournaments typically use five golfers to form a four-player team total, but the A&M tourney will use six players forming a five-player total. That might give the Aggies a bit of a home-turf edge to throw at the super-loaded Longhorns of Texas.

The Lobos string of top five finishes is impressive - and it would be a nice streak to continue in The Aggie tourney -- but there are bigger fish to fry and possibly smaller fairways to hit down the road.

The Mountain West Championships are set for May 4-6 at the OMNI Tucson National and then there are NCAA wars May 17-19 (West Regional) and the NCAA Championships set for May 29-31.

The Lobos head to Bryan, Texas coming off their second-straight second place finish. UNM finished runners-up to then-No. 6 ranked California at a tourney hosted by Arizona State. UNM tied with No. 13 San Diego State - obviously one of UNM's rivals for the 2012 Mountain West crown.

The Lobos went into that event ranked No. 19 by Golfweek.com and this week the Lobos carry a No. 16 ranking onto Texas soil.

"When everybody is playing well, it pushes you to do better and there is energy throughout the team," said the 6-foot-4 Perez. " We have good cohesion through all the guys, which is good."

Perez almost carded the low round in the final round of that 54-hole tournament at ASU, but followed up an eagle on the 17th hole with a double-bogey on the 18th. The Lobos battled back from an opening-round team score of 289 to card a 276 followed by a 278.

If you are looking ahead to the MW wars and expect a two-team shootout, well, make that a three-team shootout. The Mountain West is loaded. The UNLV Rebels finished fourth in Arizona State event as the nation's No. 11 team. This week the Rebs, still No. 11, stayed ahead of the Aztecs (No. 15) and New Mexico (No. 16). UNLV is 2-1 vs. the Lobos.

The Lobos enter the A&M tourney as the winningest golf team in head-to-head wins vs. other schools. New Mexico has 128 wins against 21 losses and one tie in the Lobos' 11 outings. San Diego State is next at 127-22-2.

The Lobos wouldn't mind winning in Bryan, Texas, but they also are eyeing the Mountain title and even the NCAA title.

"Texas is really good, but you never know," said Catlin, who tops the team with a 71.09 scoring average. "We just have to get hot."

In a normal season, you might figure a lot of teams could beat out Texas for the NCAA title -- and golf can be a cruel game. But like Catlin said, Texas is really good. The Longhorns won their third straight tournament last week, which was their seventh win of the NCAA season.

That's like back-to-back-to-back holes-in-one.