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Sam Saunders, a former University of New Mexico golfer who will play on the Korn Ferry Tour starting in January, shot a bogey-free 9-under par 63 to capture his second New Mexico Open title Tuesday at Ladera Golf Course.
Saunders, the 2018 New Mexico Open champion, eagled No. 2 and birdied hole Nos. 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 15 and 17 to win by three strokes, going 16-under 128 for the two-round, two-day event. To the best of his knowledge, he led wire to wire.
He entered Tuesday’s final round with a one-shot lead after his 7-under 65 that included eight birdies and one bogey.
“It wasn’t too tight, but it was tight enough to make me a little nervous,” Saunders told the Journal. “It was fun. I enjoyed it.”
Saunders earned $5,000 for his victory.
“Not bad for two days of work,” he said.
Saunders will play in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Q-School final stage event Nov. 4-7 at The Landings Club in Savannah, Georgia. He gained exemption to that event and the Korn Ferry Tour after finishing eighth on the Forme Tour that ended this past weekend.
The Korn Ferry Tour’s schedule was released Monday and features 26 tournaments across four countries and 18 states.
Wil Collins, also a former Lobo and a mentor for Saunders, and Marty Sanchez of Santa Fe finished tied for second at 13-under. Sam Choi, a senior on the UNM men’s golf team and among a handful of amateurs in the field of 88, tied for third with Ryo Harada of Las Cruces at 12-under.
The New Mexico Open, which was to be held at Sandia Golf Club, was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In early 2021, Sandia and Sun Country Golf House had called off this year’s New Mexico Open because of the uncertainty derived from the virus, and with Sandia Resort and Casino being closed at that time, said Cory Armstrong, the Sun Country Golf House executive director.
But two months ago, Ladera Golf Course and Route 66 Casino connected with Sun Country to revive the New Mexico Open.