Lobos To Take Same Approach Shot to Regionals

May 14, 2012

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The 16th-ranked University of New Mexico men's golf team never has played the University of Georgia Gofl Course, the site of the Athens Regional on Thursday-Saturday, but coach Glen Millican already has figured out the perfect approach to play.

The Lobos will be the No. 3 seed during the NCAA Regional in Athens, Ga., in which the top five teams in the 13-team field will advance to the NCAA Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif., beginning May 29. Alabama, the No. 2 team in the nation as rated by Golfweek.com, enters as the top seed. No. 12 North Florida is the second seed, while host and 25th-ranked Georgia and 26th-ranked Iowa round out the top five seeds.

UNM has finished in the top five in 12 of the 13 tournaments it has entered this season, and Millican says part of the credit goes to the absence of scoreboard-watching his team does.

"There's nothing different I want us to do when we go out there," the 11th-year Lobo coach says. "If we can do a good job of staying in the present, focusing on each hole, each shot - if we accomplish that part of it, I think we'll play well and I like our chances."

It's a strategy that's paid off for the Lobos before. While freshman Victor Perez was competing for an individual championship during the final round of the Aggie Invitational in Bryan, Texas on April 22, he had no idea about what place he was in for most of the day.

Only when Perez teed off on hole No. 17 did Millican reveal to Perez that he had a four-stroke lead.

"When we're out on the course, we don't think about results," said Perez, who won the Aggie Invitational by those four strokes. "Really, you just try to play shot by shot and play the best round you can."

It's rare that a fifth-place result is as good as a win in a tournament, but that is not reason enough to change strategy, Millican said.

"Especially without knowing the course, I don't know about what holes are out there that could be trouble," he said. "Now, if we're in a good position heading into the last few holes in the final round, we might look at what might be the smartest play, but our guys are pretty smart anyway so I don't think we'd have to alter much."

In preparation for the event, four of the five Lobos heading to Georgia competed at Twin Warrior Golf Club on Monday in a local qualifying event for the U.S. Open. Juniors James Erkenbeck and John Catlin, and freshman Gavin Green and Sean Romero played a round at Twin Warriors Golf Course at the Santa Ana Pueblo. Perez did not play in the event.

"It was a good thing for us to play competitive golf right before we head out," Millican said.

Just another part of the approach the Lobos hope will get them to the NCAA Championships.

ERKENBECK QUALIFIES: Erkenbeck birdied during a four-way playoff to break a tie for third place and capture the final sport in local U.S. Open qualifying round Monday at Twin Warriors.

Former Lobo Kent Jones won the event with a 4-under 67 and he and Erkenbeck will now get a chance to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifying event. Qualifiers from that tournament will earn an invitation to vie at the U.S. Open Championship June 11-17 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Erkenbeck, Green and senior Lobo Alex Estrada were three of the four in the playoff at even-par 71, and Erkenbeck advanced by making a birdie on the second playoff hole, No. 11 on the course.

Green earned the first alternate slot with an eagle on No. 12, and Estrada made a birdie on 12 to earn second alternate status.