Stevens: New Mexico Lobos Men's Golf 2012-13 Season Preview

NEW MEXICO LOBOS MEN'S GOLF - 2012-13 SEASON PREVIEW

Lobos Fall Schedule:
Sept. 9-10: Gopher Invitational -- Wayzata, Minn.
Sept. 23-25: Ping/Golfweek Preview -- Alpharetta, Ga.
Sept. 28-29: William H. Tucker Intercollegiate -- UNM Championship Course
Oct. 21-23: Isleworth Intercollegiate -- Isleworth, Fla.
Oct. 29-30: Royal Oaks Intercollegiate -- Dallas, Texas

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In golf, like in all sports, you have to finish. It's difficult to say Glen Millican's New Mexico Lobos didn't finish in 2011-12 because the Lobos finished in the top six in all 13 of their golf tournaments.

That's pretty darn good.

That's consistency in a lot of phases of the game.

But it's still fair to say the Lobos didn't finish the way they wanted to because their sixth place finish at the NCAA Regional left them one spot - and one stroke - out of the NCAA finals. And Millican makes one thing perfectly clear about his mission at UNM:

"Everything we do is geared around our ultimate goal of winning a national championship," he said.

"Our guys remember what happened last year and that we should have gotten through (to the finals). But dwelling on it won't help us want to play any better. We are always out to shoot the best we can."

For sure, you can't win the national title if you don't make the finals. The Lobos were surprised not to make the finals in 2012 and would be surprised big time if they didn't make the finals in 2013.

Millican's Lobos are loaded.

"We have all the guys back who played at regionals," said Millican. "We feel we should have a great year."

The Lobos return three All-Mountain West golfers in senior John Catlin, senior James Erkenbeck and sophomore Victor Perez. Catlin and Erkenbeck will provide proven senior leadership, which is only a carryover from the leadership they provided as juniors.

The Lobos also have sophomores Gavin Green and Sean Romero back from last year's regional run.

Catlin and Erkenbeck are geared to have special years. Catlin won the Arizona Intercollegiate last season and was included in a Golf Digest/Golf World list of the top 50 collegiate male golfers to watch in 2012-13.

Erkenbeck was runner-up at the William H. Tucker and finished fifth at the Mountain West tourney.

Millican has strengthened his 2012-13 roster with three freshmen: Mitch Johnson from Wisconsin, Joseph Abella from Texas and Matt Krutz from Oklahoma. The UNM roster also includes Benjamin Bauch, Ryan Barry, Camren Bergman, Max Elsaesser and Collin Ward.

"We showed last year that we had a strong group of guys and they are all back," said Millican. "We have added some guys and if someone steps up, that's great, but we have no holes to fill.

"We just have to make sure we don't focus on how good we could be and just concentrate on making shots. We know what we can do."

The Lobos started out hot in the fall of 2011 by finishing in the top five of each of the five tournament in which they played. UNM ended up finishing in the top five in 11 out of 13 tournaments. The Lobos were sixth in tournament No. 12 and tournament no. 13.

So, is there pressure to duplicate those finishes and maybe win a few titles in 2012-13?

"We are motivated to win every time we tee it up," said Millican. "And there is pressure every time you play golf -- internal pressure. I don't think any outside pressure would even register on any kind of meter with these guys.

"The guys have been through it and they know what they want to achieve and what they are capable of achieving."

A great year, like a great round of golf, usually is defined by the finish, but the Lobos did hit a few bumps down the stretch. Millican said this at the 2012 Mountain West Tournament: "We were in the right position, but we didn't finish the way we needed to."

The Lobos played the 18th hole at the MW tourney at four-over par. They slipped into third place, losing runner-up honors by two shots. In their next tournament (NCAA regionals), they were a single shot from advancing to the NCAA finals.

The message might be simple enough: practice just a little longer, focus on every shot because every shot counts.

Finish.

"It's always a goal to be the best team in your conference," said Millican. "And you are never satisfied by just getting to regionals. Regionals are technically the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but we expect to get past that and compete at the highest level."

Really, there is no reason not to expect this Lobo team to compete at the highest level. Their accomplishments a season ago were remarkable considering UNM had no seniors in the lineup and played with three freshmen.

This year the Lobos have two stellar seniors - and the freshmen have grown into sophomores.

"We have our expectations," said Millican.