Conference champions University of New Mexico (Mountain West) and New Mexico State (Western Athletic) won’t be playing at the same NCAA Regional, they learned when the fields for the four regionals were announced on Wednesday.
Instead, the double-digit-seeded teams, UNM (No. 12) and NMSU (15th) will try to make the climb separately to advance to the NCAA Championships.
The Lobos, who overcame a 16-stroke deficit after the first round to win their ninth MWC title by four shots, will play at the Columbus Regional at Ohio State University in the 54-hole event May 10-12. They are making their 17th postseason appearance, Sophomore Lauren Lehigh, who finished tied for first in regulation at the Mountain West Championship, as well as sophomore Napat “Jenny Letsaswattana and freshman Myah McDonald, who both finished tied for fourth at the MWC finale, lead UNM.
The Aggies, the 10-time WAC champions, will compete at the Stanford Regional at Stanford Golf Course. NMSU features the WAC Player of the year, Amelia McKee, the WAC Freshman of the Year, Alison Gastelum, and two-time WAC Player of the Year and four-time First Team All-WAC honoree Pun Chanachai.
If either the Lobos or Aggies finish among the six lowest scoring teams at their regional, they advance to the NCAA Championships May 21-26 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. The three low individuals not from the championships-qualifying teams from each regional also advance.
Coach Jill Trujillo, in her 14th season at UNM, has some knowledge of the Ohio State course. In 2009, the Lobos finished sixth at the NCAA Regionals on that course and advanced to the NCAA Championships, where they finished 19th.
“I have to re-familiarize myself with the yardage book to start, and then once you get on (the) property everything kind of all comes back,” Trujillo said. “The biggest factor there can be the weather. … The courses are only as hard as you make them. If you hit it in the fairways, hit it on or near the green and up-and-down some putts, you know, we always tell our team just to make things simple. I think we have a really good group of players that can do that.”
The 72 teams and 24 individuals competing across four regionals — 18 teams and six individuals eacb at Columbus, Stanford, Louisville and Baton Rouge — will be tested twice for the coronavirus at the regional sites.
They will be tested on the day of arrival at the regional May 8 and then again on May 10 in the evening after the first round.
“There are so many stories out there of players and teams being exposed and they couldn’t go to their conference championships,” Trujillo said. “We’re being extremely careful. It’s important for us to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Trujillo said she has been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. She said she can’t divulge vaccination information about her golfers.
Trujillo said the Lobos should not think about being a 12 seed and do their best “to do something special,” and finish among the six lowest-scoring teams.
The top six seeded teams at the Columbus Regional include Duke, Arizona State, Virginia, Kent State, Georgia and Vanderbilt. Duke, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion, is the defending champion, having won in 2019 before there was no postseason in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.