A smile came to Bastien Amat’s face when the University of New Mexico freshman was indoors with the media, away from the wind and rain on the UNM Championship Golf Course on Tuesday afternoon.
The joy wasn’t about being dry, rather it was about taking a moment to realize that he shot the low round for the day, a personal-best 6-under-par 66 to match Oregon State senior Spencer Tibbits in the second round of the NCAA Regional at the UNM Championship south course.
Amat, the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, expressed excitement that he put all of his game together – mostly his putting came through amid challenging conditions on the back nine.
His bogey-free round featured birdies on the 517-yard, par-4 No. 10; 579-yard, par-5 No. 14 and 544-yard par-5 No. 18 when the wind picked up considerably. Amat, who is from France, is tied for second, one shot from the leader Tibbits, who is at 9-under 135.
“It’s a very good field,” Amat said. “This is really rewarding of my hard work. I’m excited for the third round to see what I can do, to see if I can get the win. I’m trying to play the same way, the same as the practice round or any other round.”
UNM coach Glen Millican said that other than Bastien’s performance the Lobos “were a little bit sloppy,” and he felt they missed an opportunity to move up the team leaderboard with Bastien’s 66.
UNM is tied for sixth with San Diego at -5 after its second-round even-par 278 team score (the four best players’ scores of the five players on the team). Junior Sam Choi, ranked No. 23 in the nation, shot 2-over and is tied for 35th with teammate Matthew Watkins, who shot 75. Junior Brandon Shong shot 73 and is tied for 40th and sophomore Albert Boneta shot 74 and is tied for 53rd.
The five lowest-scoring teams and the lowest-scoring individual not on those teams advance to the NCAA Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 28-June 2.
The Lobos, the Mountain West Conference champions, are three shots behind Texas A&M and South Carolina. UNM is one shot better than Stanford and two better than Oklahoma, which entered the regional as the overall No. 1 seed.
Oregon State, which entered as the No. 7 seed, leads at -20, five shots lower than Texas Tech (-15) and 8 lower than third-place Arizona State (-12).
New Mexico State, the Western Athletic Conference champion, is 12th, led by Garrison Smith, who is tied for 14th at 3-under 141.
“At some point we’re going to have to play a great round,” Millican said. “As a team we’ve played two scores that are decent. Those are average scores for playing out here. You’re probably not going to get through with three average rounds.”
Millican and Amat believe the Lobos can finish among the top five, as does Choi, who said the team set the goal before the regional to finish in the top three.
“Knowing that we can play this course very well and then we still have to count four scores, I think it’s very doable,” said Choi, who, just as Amat did, birdied No. 18. “We finished well and it keeps our momentum going. We’ll see. We’ll try to have fun (Wednesday).”
Three of Oregon State’s top four golfers, including Tibbits, Shawn Lu (tied for sixth) and Carson Berry (tied for 30th), played at UNM Championship course when the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship was here in 2019. Tibbits said that has helped the Beavers during the regional, where they led after the first round by two shots.
“I feel great about my round,” Tibbits said. “This year hasn’t been quite to what I would have liked. All my people in my inner circle just always told me to keep fighting and keep on grinding. … I’m trying to finish my college career out strong. I feel great (about the third round). I’m just going to go out and play, and whatever happens, happens.”