Lobo Men's Golf Team Heads OFf to Unpredictable MW Tournament

May 3, 2012

Mountain West Tournament Release

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- The 2011-12 season had been unpredictably predictable for the University of New Mexico men’s golf team – until its last tournament resulted in an uncharacteristic finish and showed the lack of predictability in the sport.

The 16th-ranked Lobos (in both the Golfweek.com and Golfstat.com polls) will compete in the Mountain West championship Friday-Sunday at the OMNI Tucson National Golf Resort in Tucson, Ariz. UNM will aim for its fifth conference championship under 11th-year head coach Glen Millican but first title since the 2006 season capped a Lobo four-peat.

New Mexico, which has played two juniors and three true freshmen during most of its tournaments, had finished no lower than fifth place in its first 11 tournaments. That run included a win at the Lone Star Invitational in San Antonio, Texas in October, as well as four runner-up finishes.

The Lobos, however, watched that streak come to an end during their last tournament – the Texas A&M-hosted Aggie Invitational – during their last outing on April 21-22. The tournament counted five scores and six players – rather than the usual four scores and five players – and UNM finished sixth out of 10 teams with a 68-over-par finish. That was 39 strokes behind tournament winner and now sixth-ranked Oregon, and nine strokes behind fifth-place Oklahoma State.

Millican doesn’t seem overly concerned about his team’s last outing or that it ended an impressive, yearlong streak.

“The score is what it is,” he says of the A&M tourney. “The course was set up beautifully where it was hard to score well. It was an awesome experience for our team. The last day, we went out and shot one of the best rounds of the day, so we were able to learn from it and we should be a lot better for it.

(The top-five run) was nice to talk about and the guys knew about it, but we don’t get any trophies for that.”

The Lobos will get a trophy with a win this weekend. To get one, they’ll obviously have to play well collectively, but even then, they have to await the scores of the rest of a conference that includes UNLV (No. 14 in Golfweek.com, No. 7 in Golfstat.com) and San Diego State (No. 15/14).

The Rebels finished better in two of the three tournaments they played against New Mexico, and the Lobos were better in one, worse in one and tied one tournament with the Aztecs.

Also in the field are TCU (No. 32/45), Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and Wyoming).

“It’s hard to predict because a whole lot because there are eight teams playing golf, and you’re counting four scores each day,” Millican says. “But I feel we’re going to go over and play well, which is going to give us a good chance.”

The Lobos may have the hottest individual golfer in the league in freshman Victor Perez, who was the individual medalist in the Aggie Invitational. He was the only one of the 70 players to break par, shooting a 3-under 213 to win by four strokes.

Perez has finished in the top 20 in each of his last six tournaments.

“I’d had a couple of top 10s and I thought that was great,” Perez says. “Having a chance to win my freshman year was really cool. It gives me a lot of confidence going into conference.”

Juniors James Erkenbeck and John Catlin are quite familiar with the course, both having played two previous conference tournaments in Tucson. Erkenbeck has finished in the top 20 in his last three events, but Catlin’s 53rd place finish at the Aggie Invitational ended a string of four straight top-20 outings.

“The A&M tournament wasn’t my best tournament of the year,” Catlin says. “It was good. I was able to learn some things from it. I was kind of coasting all year, so to have a wake-up call was good.”

Freshmen Gavin Green and Sean Romero comprise the rest of the team, and it’s been the play of the freshmen that have the Lobos confident they can win the conference.

“The surprise has been our three freshmen,” Millican says. “I’m not surprised that they’re good players, but going into a season, you wouldn’t count on all three freshmen playing as well as they have.”

Another card in the unpredictability factor is the amount of preparation the players across the league have been able to do with spring final exams approaching.

It makes predicting the tournament tougher but allows for more positive thinking at the same time.

“UNLV is a great team, San Diego State is (ranked) in front of us and TCU is playing well,” Perez says. “But we definitely have a chance to win. The team has played well all year. I mean, why not?”