It’s tee time, college golf style. And the New Mexico Lobos are driving along with some of the nation’s best.
The sixth-seeded Lobos play in the NCAA Championship today at 10:40 a.m. (MDT) just outside of Atlanta. They are grouped with fourth-seeded Texas – the defending national champs – and fifth-seeded Washington in the 30-team field.
The schools play in the same groups during Wednesday’s second round at the Capital City Club in Woodstock, Ga. Round 2 begins at 5:30 a.m.
Opening round of NCAA Championship. UNM tees off at 10:40 a.m.
The first 54 holes are medal play, with the top four scores on each five-man team counting towards each day’s total. After Wednesday’s second round, the teams will be re-paired according to their 36-hole scores for Thursday’s play.
After 54 holes, the top eight teams advance to match play. The quarterfinals are Friday, the semifinals are Saturday and the championship is Sunday.
“It’s rewarding, because I know what these guys put into it,” UNM’s 12th year head coach Glen Millican told the Journal. “It’s a special thing for our seniors to end their careers in the national championship. And it’s also great experience for our two sophomores.”
The Lobo seniors are James Erkenbeck, John Catlin and Benjamin Bauch. The sophomores are Victor Perez and Gavin Green.
It’s the Lobos’ first appearance in the NCAA Championship since 2007. New Mexico’s best-ever finish was fourth in 1973.
UNM got in this year by finishing in the top five of the NCAA Columbus Regional on May 18. It won that title, and also won the Mountain West Conference crown earlier in the month.
The Lobos are ranked fifth in the nation by Golfweek.com.
“Having qualified, we started thinking about what’s coming up,” Millican said. “But we’re going in with same idea as every other tournament. If our guys play as good as they can, it gives us a chance to win it. But there are a lot of things, obviously, out of control. You can’t play a zone defense on other teams.
“But if we stay focused and control the things in our control, well have a chance to finish very well – and you never know? The best in school history was fourth. So if we come back home better than that, we’d have to feel pretty good about what happened in Atlanta.”
California is the top seed with Alabama, last year’s runner-up, second and UCLA third.
HAT TRICK: Three former Lobo coaches have teams in the field: John Fields at Texas, J.T. Higgins at 20th-seeded Texas A&M and Dwaine Knight at 24th-seeded UNLV. All three have won national titles at their current schools.
PURE GOLD: Cal is favored to win the NCAA championships – quite an accomplishment for the record-setting program that operates without any financial help from the university. The golf team has an annual budget of about $600,000.
The Golden Bears set an NCAA modern-era single-season record with 11 wins in their first 13 tournaments.