University of New Mexico sophomore Lauren Lehigh laid out a towel across a car seat before sitting down to answer questions from the media via a virtual press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
The towel was needed because moments earlier she and her teammates had jumped into famed Poppie’s Pond at Mission Hills Country Club. The celebratory dip was fully warranted. The Lobos, led by Lehigh, overcame a 16-shot deficit after the first round to win the Mountain West Conference championship by four strokes on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, California.
It is UNM’s first title since 2014 and the ninth conference championship in program history, which is the most in the MWC.
“It’s incredible,” said Lehigh, who shot 1-over 217 (73-72-72) over three rounds to tie for the top spot in regulation, and before San Diego State senior Sara Kjellker beat her on the third playoff hole. “It’s hard to put into words how amazing it is to win the conference championship with this team, with our coaches. It means the world to all of us.”
New Mexico State, meanwhile, overcame a two-stroke deficit to win its 10th Western Athletic Conference title by seven strokes at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada. The Aggies have now won six of the last seven WAC Championships, and their 10 WAC titles are the most in the league.
UNM nearly had an individual champion in Lehigh, the Lobos’ No. 3 who stepped up her game at Mission Hills. Kjellker shot even on the par-3 No. 17 and Lehigh bogeyed the third playoff hole.
UNM’s Napat “Jenny” Lertsadwattana (76-72-72) and Myah McDonald (73-72-75) tied for fourth at 4-over 887.
Serena Chon (79-77-72) was tied for 22nd at 12-over 228 and Caroline Jansson (78-78-74) finished 27th at 14-over 23 for the Lobos, who finished at 19-over 883.
“This is probably the greatest comeback that I ever been in and witnessed,” said UNM coach Jill Trujillo, who also jumped into the pond. “Every team comes to win, and we came to win but they did something special out there today.”
UNM’s conference golf title is the Lobos’ fourth MWC championship of the year, which includes women’s cross country, women’s basketball and women’s soccer.
The Lobos and Aggies will learn their NCAA Regional destination during the NCAA Selection Show next Wednesday on the Golf Channel.
All five NMSU golfers finished in the top 10 led by Pun Chanachai, who fired a two-over-par 218 over three rounds to finish tied for third. Karen Miyamoto (+3) and Alison Gastelum (+4) were sixth and seventh, respectively.
“I’m extremely proud of the way the girls handled themselves during the day,” NMSU coach Danny Bowen said in a release. “They never gave up and fought until they signed the scorecard. Our resilience was off the charts.”