Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
University of New Mexico men’s golf coach Glen Millican knows for sure that just because the Lobos are playing on their course for an NCAA Regional doesn’t automatically put them through to the NCAA Championships.
In 2016, when the Lobos last played host to an NCAA Regional, New Mexico fell short at UNM Championship Golf Course, three strokes from tying with two other teams to set up a playoff, and the winner advancing to the NCAA Championships.
This time, the Lobos will be looking for redemption when they compete in the NCAA Regional at UNM South Championship Course on May 17-19. They are the fifth seed and one of 14 teams in the Southwest Regional that features overall No. 1 seed Oklahoma and includes New Mexico State, the No. 12 seed.
The five lowest-shooting teams and the lowest-shooting individual not from that group of five teams at the 54-hole event will move on to the NCAA Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 28-June 2.
“It’s nice to be here at home, but come Monday the 17th, everyone has to play good Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, regardless,” Millican said during a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon after the Golf Channel announced the field for the regional in Albuquerque. “We’re not going to get any points for being at home. Nobody’s going to give us any putts. We’re still going to have to go and earn it and play good golf.”
The Lobos played some good golf to win the Mountain West Conference championship on Saturday at OMNI Tucson National Golf Course in Arizona. They rallied from six strokes down to tie the match at the end of regulation and then beat Nevada on the first playoff hole, No. 18.
UNM set up the playoff by breaking the Mountain West Championship team round record with a third-round score of 19-under-par 269.
It was UNM’s eighth MWC title and its second straight, since the Lobos won it in 2019 and last spring’s golf season was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve played pretty solid throughout the season,” Millican said. “We had maybe one bad tournament maybe dictated by a bad final round in San Diego. With the exception of that, we have played really solid golf. We’ve had different guys play really well at different times. (Sam) Choi played solid and then (Albert) Boneta played great in Phoenix. Bastien (Amat) had a great performance at BYU and then kind of everyone played great in that last one at conference. I definitely see it as us moving in the right direction, and a lot of guys starting to play well at the right time.”
Millican gave his players credit for being ready to compete when their season started in January. Before then, they were relegated to practicing on their own and trying to enter tournaments.
The Lobos will be making their 22nd regional appearance and vying to make the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2017. They have 42 NCAA Championships appearances.
New Mexico State is making its first NCAA Regional appearance since 2015 and its 15th NCAA Regional appearance in the history of the program. The Aggies won the Western Athletic Conference title to secure a spot in the NCAA Regionals.
Fans will be allowed to attend the NCAA Regional at the UNM South Championship Course and are required to abide by all COVID-19 safety regulations including masks and remaining socially distant on the course. Fans cannot interact with the golfers and officials in any way due to COVID-19 and testing protocols for the student-athletes, coaches and event staff.