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Lobo men’s golf adds to UNM’s league title wave

The University of New Mexico men’s golf team celebrates its Mountain West championship, which it won Saturday in Tucson. (UNM photo)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico men’s golf team rallied from six strokes down to tie the match at the end of regulation, then beat Nevada on the first playoff hole, No. 18 (plus-2 to plus-3), to capture its eighth Mountain West Conference championship Saturday at OMNI Tucson National Golf Course in Arizona.

(Click here for Mountain West championship results.)

It was the second team playoff in Mountain West history and first since 2004 when New Mexico defeated BYU.

The Lobos and Nevada broke the Mountain West Championship record as both teams shot a third-round score of 19-under-par 269, two shots lower than UNLV in 2009 and 2010.

UNM’s eight titles is a conference record, and it is the school’s second-straight title after winning the championship in 2019. Last spring’s golf season was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a very special one,” said UNM’s Glen Millican, who has coached the Lobos to each of their eight conference titles.

“The way we won and the golf we had to play because of the scores that were being shot, it’s hard to find a better round of golf that I’ve been a part of than today. To shoot 19 under, to set a Mountain West record in the final round given the scenario, you couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s awesome. It’s a very, very impressive day of golf for these guys.”

UNM junior Sam Choi led the Lobos, shooting 6-under 66 in the final round and finishing tied for first place with three others in regulation. Choi, who shot 74 and 69 in the first two rounds and finished at 7-under 209 overall, fell short in the first four-golfer playoff in Mountain West Championship history.

Choi’s high school teammate at Anaheim Discovery Christian High School in Calfornia, San Diego State’s Puwit Anupansuebsai, birdied the second playoff hole (No. 10) to win the individual title. Boise State’s Hugo Townsend and UNLV’s Jack Trent were also in the playoff.

“I’ve never played a four-man playoff,” Choi said. “It was actually pretty fun. They’re all my buddies, especially playing with Puwit, my high school teammate. Yeah, I didn’t win but it was a lot of good experience.”

UNM sophomore Albert Boneta (73-72-65) finished tied for fifth, at 6-under 210 and freshman Bastien Amat (72-72-68) finished tied for 11th at 4-under 212. Lobo freshman Matthew Watkins (72-73-70) was tied for 19th at 1-under 215, and UNM junior Brandon Shong (73-73-72) finished tied for 26th at 2-over 218.

Boneta and Amat shot par (4) on the playoff hole, while Choi and Watkins bogeyed.

The Lobos will learn their destination on Wednesday for the NCAA Regionals May 16-19.

The Lobos’ men’s golf Mountain West title was UNM’s sixth of 2021, joining women’s cross country, women’s basketball, women’s soccer, women’s golf and men’s tennis.

“It’s just another thing that makes this thing more special,” said Millican in a Zoom interview. “It’s always great to win but to win and kind of continue something that’s been going on the last couple of months (at UNM) … I’ve been a Lobo fan, player and coach, UNM has been my adult life since (1993). I love our program, but I just love the neat thing that’s going on at UNM. To be a part of that is a lot of fun.”

The title run began with New Mexico winning the women’s cross country event on March 5. It was UNM’s 13th consecutive league championship.

That same day, the UNM women’s basketball team defeated Colorado State in the second of a two-game set at the Pit, passing the Rams for the regular season title. Those were the only two games the Lobo women played at home during the season.

Lobo women’s soccer had a dominant run in winning the league title, then won one NCAA Tournament game before bowing to TCU in a second-round game on Friday.

UNM women’s golf team had a similarly stunning rally, coming back from 11 strokes down following round two. The Lobos move on to the Columbus Regional May 10-12. Men’s tennis won last Sunday at Air Force, and its NCAA selection show is Monday.

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