Branch/McGuire: Lobos take 3rd, coach is optimistic


New Mexico’s Napat “Jenny” Lertsadwattana finished in third place at the Branch Law Firm /Dick McGuire Invitational held at UNM Championships Golf Course. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)


(Click here for team, individual results)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Although the New Mexico women’s golf team got a stroke worse each round, the Lobos were still able to pull off one its better performances in the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational.

New Mexico finished play Tuesday with a 2-over 290, for a three-round total of 3-over 867, good enough for third place, nine strokes behind champion Brigham Young and three behind first-day leader San Jose State.

New Mexico State finished 15th among 16 teams, carding a 44-over 908.

“I don’t think we’ve finished this high in a really long time, and I’m very proud of the way they handled themselves,” said UNM coach Jill Trujillo. “We fought really hard, just a few too many mistakes. We took a couple of high numbers on the back side. But I think they fought hard and I’m real excited about the rest of the season to see what this team can do.”

Individually, New Mexico’s Napat “Jenny” Lertsadwattana had a standout day, shooting a 4-under 68 to finish with a 7-under 209. That was good enough for third place, three strokes behind leaders Kaleiya Romero of Pepperdine and BYU’s Lila Galeai. Romero won the championship in a playoff.

“When I started (Tuesday’s round) I didn’t think about my score a lot. I just kept playing,” Lertsadwattana said. “I started top-10, but not top five, top-three so there wasn’t a lot of pressure. I just kept playing and … I was playing so good. My approach shot was really good. I just kept doing that and focused my game.”

By the time she reached the 15th hole, she was working on a bogey-free round with six birdies.

That’s when trouble struck.

“Maybe I didn’t focus enough,” she said. “Maybe I had a lot of people watching me so I got nervous. Or, I don’t know, maybe I got a little tired, too, because we played 36 holes, walking 11 hours on Monday.”

Lertsadwattana ended up doubling the par-4, 336-yard hole, then came up with another bogey before recovering to go par and birdie to close out her round.

“I think need more focus,” she said. “After I made a mistake, I made it on another hole so I need to fix that to be a good player.”

Her potential is unlimited, however, Trujillo said.

“She had an errant tee shot on 15 and she three-putted the next hole, so that was two mental errors,” the coach said. “She corrects those and gets a little tougher and it’s going to be ‘watch out for Jenny.’ It’s going to be awesome.”

Caroline Jansson, playing as an individual, and Lauren Lehigh were New Mexico’s second-best finishers, each coming in at 3-over 219.

As for individual honors, Romero and Galeai were prepared to share the championship before going for a playoff. It was Romero’s first college victory.

“Last year, I’m pretty sure I finished third so I did better this year,” Romero said. “I had a slow summer and just to come back for my first tournament and play pretty well, I’m happy about it. Mentally, it was good. Even if I hit a bad shot, I stayed positive and just kept going.”

The tournament marked the return home of Iowa’s Jacquelyn Galloway, who won Class 5A state championships 2016-18 for Cleveland High.

Galloway, in her final year before graduation, struggled, finishing with a 19-over 235.

“It was nice to see everybody,” she said. “I struggled a lot in this tournament. I was struggling with every part of my game. A lot of confidence issues. That’s golf.”

Galloway, who plans to go to grad school to study occupational therapy after a year off working for AmeriCorps, said this was not the way she expected to finish her final year of competition.

“I want to finish strong, obviously,” she said. “I’m just glad that I can play golf. (Tuesday) I played really well. I just had a triple that really killed me. I was 2-under on the front nine, then I tripled the 10th hole.”

Body starts here.

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