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Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
The University of New Mexico men’s golf team ended a four-year drought since its last William H. Tucker Collegiate team championship.
But it needed overtime to do it.
In a rare regular-season team tournament playoff, the host Lobo five all birdied the first playoff hole – the par-5 18th – to unseat two-time defending team champion BYU at the university’s Championship Course on Saturday.
UNM coach Glen Millican said that playoffs in the postseason are the standard, but regular-season team tournaments usually end in co-championships due to school and travel concerns.
“It’s important to go through this experience if you do have the opportunity, and fortunately, BYU was able to make some adjustments (with its travel),” Millican said. “You cannot create this scenario of a playoff or match-play situation. It was awesome.”
The Lobos seemed to have the 16-team tournament locked up with an 11-under-par team score over the two days and three rounds. But sophomore Sam Choi’s bogey on his next-to-last hole was entered as a par on the electronic scoring system.
After the correction was made, the Lobos’ score dropped by one to match BYU’s 10-under. After 45 minutes, both teams sent their five-man rosters out to the par-5 18th to initiate the playoff. The winner of the playoff would be determined by each team’s five-person aggregate score.
UNM tournament medalist Galven Green was paired with teammates Sam Choi and Ignacio Arcaya to comprise three-fifths of the first quintet.
Green hit the green in two and two-putted from 25 feet for birdie; Choi chipped his third shot from in front of the green to six feet, and drained his birdie; but it was Arcaya who used some creativity – and a deft touch – to make his birdie.
On the front-right of the green in two, a jutting piece of fringe resided between Arcaya and the pin. Instead of putting the ball through the fringe, Arcaya chipped with a wedge off the putting service, caught the ball clean, and cleared the fringe to leave himself three feet above the hole for birdie.
Arcaya then tapped in for the nifty four.
“The angle I had didn’t allow me to putt it,” Arcaya said. “It was a little bit of a tighter lie, so my No. 1 goal was to get it up on the top level.”
Given the pressure of the moment, some might think nerves would have kicked in for Arcaya with the rarity of the shot he had to execute.
“We actually practice taking chips on the green and chipping from tight lies,” Arcaya said. “… Now we know (that practice) paid off.”
Ross Sinclair and Albert Boneta were the final two UNM players to play, and they were paired with BYU’s remaining three players.
Sinclair striped his drive and knocked his second shot onto the green, while Boneta, a freshman, was pin-high in the bunker in two shots.
None of the Cougars’ three players was on the putting surface in two shots, and so the Lobos had the upper hand.
Sinclair rolled his putt to within a whisker of an eagle-three, and he tapped in for the Lobos’ fourth birdie of the playoff.
Boneta, too, was solid from the bunker leaving a three-foot putt for birdie that was ultimately conceded.
Only one of the three BYU players was able to get up and down for birdie giving the Cougars a 3-under-par final score — two shy of the Lobos’ winning total.
“BYU is a great team,” Millican said. “For us to beat them, we had to work really hard to get it.”
BYU’s Peter Kuest repeated as individual champion, and he did so with a record-breaking 16-under-par, one better than former Lobo Tim Herron’s tournament record set in 1992.
Green, the defending Mountain West Conference individual champ, led the Lobos, tying for second at 7-under-par.
“Kuest didn’t show any nerves today and just played some solid golf,” Green said, who played with the individual champion. “With the conditions today on this course, (second place) was awesome.”