Aiden Thomas, the former state champion high school golfer at St. Pius, is in his third season competing for the New Mexico State Aggies in Las Cruces.
Friday, he looked right at home again in Albuquerque, tearing up the UNM Championship Golf Course on the first day of the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate tournament with a dozen birdies and just one bogey over two rounds of play to take a three-shot lead at 11 under par into Saturday’s final day of play in the three-round event.
UNM Lobo Sam Choi is 8 under par through two rounds and in second place in the 100-player event.
Both UNM (10-under, 2nd place) and NMSU (2-under, tied for third with San Diego) sit well behind tournament leader BYU (-21) and well ahead of the other 14 teams with fifth place in the event sitting at 8-over.
BYU had all five scoring players (they also have a sixth golfer competing unaffiliated) shoot par or better through two rounds and sitting in the top 16.
Thomas followed a bogey-free opening-round 67 with a second-round 66 that included seven birdies on the 7,555-yard. par-72 course.
He was especially strong on the par 4s, where his 3.75 scoring average was second on the day to only San Diego’s Charlie Reiter, one of three players tied at No. 3 on the individual leaderboard at 6-under.
For the Lobos, probably not too unexpectedly on their home course, steady was the theme.
UNM led the field in pars (122 of them), and Choi posted back-to-back 68s for the day. Bastien Amat (-2), Matthew Watkins (par) and Brandon Shong (par) gave the Lobos four players sitting in the top 16 after Day 1.
Saturday’s shotgun-start third round will see Thomas, Choi, BYU’s Keanu Akina (-6) and San Diego’s Reiter (-6) tee off from the third hole at 7:45 a.m.
This is the 66th playing of the William H. Tucker event and is free to spectators at the UNM course.
The Lobos have won the tournament 14 times, the last of which coming in 2019.
For NMSU, this is the second tournament of the week after finishing second at the Lone Star Invitational on Monday and Tuesday in San Antonio, Texas.
Thomas finished tied for 10th in that event. Garrison Smith was tied for third in San Antonio, but enters Saturday at plus-9, tied for 74th.