Lobo golfer Choi transferring to Pepperdine - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo golfer Choi transferring to Pepperdine

Sam Choi, who was named a PING honorable mention All-American the past two seasons for the University of New Mexico, is transferring to play golf for Pepperdine University.

Choi, who earned All-Mountain West Conference honors four straight years, finished his senior

Sam Choi (UNM photo)

season with a 70.44 stroke average, the second-best season average in program history.

The Anaheim, California product has one year of eligibility remaining due to the extra year the NCAA granted after the coronavirus shortened-season in 2020.

“He’s a great player,” UNM coach Glen Millican said. “We’ve had a lot of great players and they all leave at some point. We thought he was going to leave after two years, which was his intention. He ended up coming back and played all four years. Of course you would love to have a player like that back for another year. … I’m grateful for the time we had with him here. He had a good impact on our program. We wish him the best moving forward.”

Choi, who is ranked No. 35 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, believes Pepperdine is a national championship contender. The Waves, the 2021 national champions, reached the NCAA semifinals this past season.

Pepperdine’s top player Dylan Menante, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, transferred to North Carolina. Joe Highsmith, another Pepperdine starter, is turning pro after finishing in the top 15 in the PGA Tour University Class of 2022 and gaining eligibility on PGA Tour Canada.

“I think Pepperdine has a better program (than UNM),” Choi said. “I was kind of homesick and I wanted to move to the west coast. My goal was moving back to the west coast after I graduated. Everything worked out. Perfect time.”

Millican said Choi’s intention while at UNM was to play for two years and turn pro, but that proved extra challenging with the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, so Choi continued with the Lobos.

As a senior, Choi just missed being among the top 15 in the PGA Tour University Class of 2022 and the eligibility on PGA Tour Canada.

Choi was No. 14 before the NCAA Championships, but then was bumped to No. 16 after the finale. Choi did not compete in the NCAA Championships.

Choi said that’s the main reason he wanted to play one more season. He also believes Pepperdine has a tougher schedule than the Lobos.

“When you think about going to a different school everyone thinks: Oh, it ended in a bad way,” Choi said. “But it’s a really positive way. I talked to (assistant) Gustavo (Morantes). I talked to (Glen) Millican, they’re happy about me going to a different school for me to get better. … I had a great team and great memories. I love New Mexico.”

Millican said the Lobos have two available spots on the roster and will keep an eye on the transfer portal as an option.

“I feel great about our team coming back,” he said. “Albert Boneta was out all spring with a wrist injury. He’s been back playing and starting to feel good. He’s exempt to play in the Barracuda Championship (the PGA Tour-event July 14-17 at Old Greenwood Golf Course at Tahoe Mountain Club in Truckee, California). We’re excited to get him back in action. He’s won twice, so we know he can go.”

The Lobos also return junior Bastien Amat, an All-Mountain West honoree who had two top-5 and four top-10 individual finishes in 12 tournaments, and had a scoring average of 71.83, as well as Carson Herron, who was named All-MW Freshman of the Year.

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