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College golf: 63rd Tucker Invitational set to tee off

Fall back?

Not if the Lobos can help it.

Despite being the first day of fall, the University of New Mexico men’s golf team hopes it continues to spring forward when it plays host to the 63rd annual William H. Tucker Invitational, beginning today at the UNM Championship Golf Course.

Senior Andre Garcia, junior Sean Carlon and a trio of newcomers will tee it up for the Lobos, who get a chance to see how they stack up against two of the Mountain West Conference powers and 14 other teams.

“Hopefully our experienced guys can help give a little advice to the new guys,” UNM coach Glen Millican said Thursday before the team’s afternoon practice round. “We’re expecting a lot of wind (today), and this course can play a lot differently in windy conditions. Andre and Sean have seen how much of a change there can be.”

The 17-team field features the top three teams expected to battle for the MWC title in the spring — the Lobos, San Diego State and UNLV. The latter is coached by former UNM coach and Albuquerque native Dwaine Knight.

There will be two rounds today, with shotgun starts at 7:45 a.m. and approximately 1:30 p.m.

The final round of the 54-hole event is scheduled to also have a shotgun start (all players teeing off at same time on different holes) at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday.

The tournament is the Lobos’ third of the season, and Millican hopes they can build on where they left off this week. UNM finished 15th in the 16-team Gopher Invitational in Minnesota to open the season, then eighth in the 19-team field earlier this week at the Ram Masters in Fort Collins, Colo.

The Lobos were in 13th place in Fort Collins heading into the last round before closing with a 1-over-par 281.

“That final round on Tuesday was encouraging,” Millican said. “I think we’re coming along. That was the best round we’ve had this season, but we haven’t been great yet. We should play solid golf this week on our home course, and if we do, we’ll shoot some good numbers.”

UNM’s other three starters are true freshman Galven Green, from Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; junior transfer Augustin Holé, from Cherbourg, France (Odessa College), and redshirt freshman Ross Sinclair, from Pretoria, South Africa.

If Green’s name sounds familiar, it’s for good reason. His brother, Gavin Green, played four years for UNM earlier this decade and graduated as one of the greatest golfers in school history.

“Galven is really, really good,” Millican said, “but he has a different game than his brother. He doesn’t hit it as far as Gavin.”

Few, if any, did. Gavin, who plays on the Asian Tour, was considered one of the longest collegiate drivers in the country.

Garcia, from Mansfield, Texas, has gotten more solid each year, and Millican expects a big year out of him, as well as Hope Christian graduate Carlon.

NOTES: The Lobos will also have five individuals in the field: senior Gustavo Morantes, senior Ben Tolsma, sophomore Sam Dickey, junior Isaac Alderete and sophomore Tiger Lee.

All are eligible to win medalist honors, but their scores won’t count toward the team total.

… This will be the first Tucker without the late Lobos golf coach Dick McGuire around the course. McGuire, who started the event, died at age 90 in June.