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UNM men’s golf team misses NCAA berth by 1 stroke

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AUBURN, Ala. – A disturbing trend left the University of New Mexico men’s golf team painfully short of qualifying Saturday for the upcoming NCAA Championship.

For the third time since 2009, the Lobos finished one stroke out of qualifying for the NCAA Championship, shooting a 21-over 897 to take sixth place at the NCAA Auburn Regional.

UNM, ranked 22nd in the country, was great for the final seven holes. It needed to be great on the final eight. The Lobos finished one stroke behind fifth-place Texas. The top five teams advanced to next week’s championship tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

The Lobos posted an even-par 288 on Saturday – their best round of the tournament – thanks to their play on hole Nos. 3-9, which were their last seven on the course. The team combined to shoot 9 under par during that stretch to cap a furious rally from ninth place.

But the 13th-ranked Longhorns, coached by former UNM coach John Fields, played the final seven holes at 1 over, which was just enough to squeeze by the Lobos. In 2009, New Mexico finished one stroke behind fifth-place USC. In 2012, Iowa State was one stroke better than UNM for fifth.

Sophomore Joe Abella had the third best score over the final 36 holes on the Auburn University Club. Abella shot 5 under Friday and Saturday combined to tie for 11th place individually at even-par 216. He was tied for 46th after the first day with a 5-over 77. Individual medalist Marco Iten of Austin Peay State, who won at 8-under 208, and Sam Houston State’s Kevin Klotz (tied for fourth at 3-under 213) both shot 7 under during the last two rounds.

No. 1 Alabama won the Auburn Regional in dominating fashion, finishing as the only team to shoot below par all three rounds and scoring an 11-under 853 for a 22-stroke victory over second-place Kennesaw State (11-over 875).

UNM’s veterans, Gavin Green and Victor Perez, couldn’t provide the lift the Lobos needed. Green also made a charge, birdieing three of his last four holes to finish with a 1-over 73 Saturday and a 4-over 220 to tie for 19th. Perez’s 3-over 75 was his best round, but that was only good enough to give him a tie for 57th with a 14-over 230.

NMSU: In Sugar Grove, Ill., the Aggies shot their best round of the three-day tournament, a 313 that placed them 13th of 14 teams at 81 over par. No. 9 Illinois took a two-stroke win over No. 21 Alabama-Birmingham. Aggie Willy Hogan shot 15-over 231 for the tourney, tying for 37th.

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