Virgen: Two NM stars and what might have been for Lobo golf - Albuquerque Journal

Virgen: Two NM stars and what might have been for Lobo golf

Farmington’s Quinn Yost, left, and Albuquerque’s Aidan Krafft (shown at a tournament earlier this month), could have been teammates at UNM. But Yost is heading to the University of Nebraska while Krafft says he’s bound for Oregon. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

About a year ago, Aidan Krafft of Cibola High and Quinn Yost of Piedra Vista might have had Cherry and Silver in their golf futures.

Instead, it’s green and yellow for Krafft, scarlet and cream for Yost.

Two of the state’s best junior golfers who both possess NCAA Division I talent wanted to play for their “hometown” team: the University of New Mexico.

Oh, what could have been.

But other factors, mainly the coronavirus pandemic, led Krafft to commit to Oregon and Yost sign a letter of intent with Nebraska.

Last year, both Krafft and Yost made official visits to UNM, and each said Lobos coach Glen Millican said he was wanted at UNM, but at that time there wasn’t room for two more scholarships.

At that time, UNM, as many golf teams across the nation, was planning to stay intact especially because the players would be granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA due to the coronavirus-shortened season in 2020.

Krafft and Yost, who are friends yet have a healthy competition, thought about waiting, but it seemed like a gamble. The duo also felt they deserved a solid and true offer after all the work they had put in to create opportunities for themselves.

However, they also understood Millican’s predicament and maintain a strong respect for him. Who knows? If things don’t work out for them at their respective colleges, it’s at least possible they could transfer to UNM.

Krafft has not signed a letter of intent, but he is excited he’s heading to Oregon. He dealt with back pain and a left wrist injury during his junior year in high school that made his recruiting process all the more challenging.

He won the Class 5A state title as a freshman and was unable to defend his title in 2020 because of the pandemic. He had the injuries in 2021, when Yost won the 5A state title. This past season, Krafft recaptured the 5A individual championship by 13 shots in a sensational performance that included a 12-under-par round of 60 at Twin Warriors Golf Club. Yost finished tied for second.

Krafft powered through the injuries and gained interest from Oregon and coach Casey Martin, who eventually offered Krafft a scholarship.

“Casey believed in me,” Krafft said. “He’s been there more than any other coach out there.”

On Tuesday, Millican made one last recruiting pitch to the Cibola standout, Krafft said, though not explicitly an offer.

Millican cannot comment specifically on recruits according to NCAA rules, but he said UNM now has two spots available on its roster. The Lobos have lost standout Sam Choi, an Anaheim, California, product who announced this week he is transferring to Pepperdine.

“Mentally, I’m already set with Oregon,” Krafft said. “I have no hard feelings toward UNM. I just know it’s going to be Oregon for me.”

About a month ago, Krafft said he was still thinking about UNM. At that time, Oregon was talking about making Krafft a “grayshirt” (in which he would delay his entrance into school) and using 2022-23 as a gap year because of its own roster situation. Krafft said he saw that as an opportunity to gain more strength and be fully over his injuries. But recently, he decided to begin at Oregon in the fall after, he said, Martin gave him that option.

UNM also would have given him the opportunity to play right away. Krafft had a part of him that wanted to stay in Albuquerque and be close to his family, including his father, Adam. His father, who excelled in tennis at Minnesota, has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Krafft said.

Aidan Krafft is scheduled to play in a Stephen Curry Underrated Tour event at Wickenburg Ranch Golf Course in Phoenix, Wednesday through July 1. Curry created the national junior golf tour to provide a positive, competitive, safe environment for culturally diverse male and female junior golfers. Krafft is half Hispanic.

Krafft and Yost are scheduled to play in the Junior America’s Cup, representing the Sun Country section, at The Club at Ruby Hill in Pleasanton, California, July 31-Aug. 4.

Yost said he loved every minute of his visit to UNM last year.

Meanwhile, he formed a strong connection with Nebraska, and it only became stronger after Yost won the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship on Nov. 15, 2021, at Coushatta Golf Course in Kinder, Louisiana.

Yost shot 12-under 204 (73-64-67) to win by one shot and was featured on The Golf Channel the following month. He signed his national letter of intent with the Cornhuskers not long after winning his national title.

Krafft finished 10th in that tournament, 74-71-70 – 215.

“COVID made recruitment really hard with the extra year,” said Yost, who leaves for Nebraska on Aug. 15.

“There’s not much you can do except just go out there and play golf.”

Millican, entering his 22nd year coaching at his alma mater, said the pandemic “just really disrupted the recruiting process” for 2021 and 2022 recruits.

UNM is set to welcome incoming freshmen Virgilio Paz (Caracas, Venezuela) and Alvaro Portillo (Madrid, Spain). Their announcement that they signed their letters of intent came around the time Yost shot his 12-under.

Paz was the top-ranked junior in Venezuela. Portillo has been a member of the Spanish national team since 2018.

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